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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Lightning Juice

A few months ago I read about using lasers to ionize an air column (simulating a giant lightning rod) to induce a lightning strike. Of course, the right weather conditions are still required. A short time ago I read about rapidly recharging batteries from NEC and Toshiba. The NEC battery recharges in 30 seconds. I'm not an electrical engineer, nor do I play one on TV, but I can put two and two together. Might we begin using lightning as a power source? Inducing 15 to 20 lightning strikes would fully charge a battery array the size of Montana. Well, maybe Vermont. Even grounding away most of the charge an enormous amount of electricity could be acquired. The grounding and modulating gear would probably look a lot like Frankenstein's lab (Karloff version, of course - definitely not Rocky Horror version) and be just as exciting to work. Florida, western North Carolina, and the Seattle area are all recipients, year-round, of massive amounts of lightning. They'd be the best places for the first, let's call them 'bottles'. More serious engineering would be needed for massively upgrading the national grid so the juice can be shared.

Reading this article I found that central Africa is Lightning Central for our planet and the foothills of the Himalayas are a close second.

Is this something to be excited about? I welcome comments from any engineers out there, or anyone else for that matter.

UPDATE: Ooops. It looks like a lightning strike does indeed put out a prodigious amount of energy, but the actual output lasts a lot less than the visible bolt and is measured in microseconds. Enough to roast a few turkeys. Oh well, gotta run. The lead-to-gold machine just arrived, needs unpacking.

Blogged it here.
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