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Free light form electrical storms.

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gary350

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I have Antenna TV. I notice if there is a thunderstore within 30 miles I can see the lightning flashes on TV. Thats nothing new I have noticed that for 55 years.

When I fly my control line model airplane on over cast days if there are thunderstorms 30 miles away I get static electric shocks while flying. The metal control lines pick up a lot of electricity the higher up the airplane is the stronger the electrical shocks are.

I did an experement I put 950 turns of #24 enamel coated copper wire on a 4" PVC pipe. I soldered a neon light between the 2 wire ends. When a thunder storm was in the area the neon would flash on. When the storm was 15 miles away the neon would flash bright often from lightning strikes in the distance. When the storm was 5 miles away the neon stayed on and flashed very bright during lightning strikes. I could sometimes see the lightning strikes in the distance and the neon flashed bright at the same time.

I made a larger 6" coil and repeated the same experement. This larger coil pick up better, the neon glows brighter and flashes brighter. With the 4" and 6" coils setting 4 ft apart I see a very noticable difference in brightness on the 6" coil.

There is not much light from 1 neon. The coils will not light up a fluorescent light.

I dug a hole in the yard and put an 8 ft fluorescent light in the hole like a fence post about 2 ft deep. I got a kite flying on 300 ft of #24 enamel coated copper wire tied to the top end if the fluorescent light. As the storm got closer the fluorescent light started flashing. When the storm was very close the fluorescent light stayed ON and flashed too. The wind picked up as it started to rain and the kite crashed. I was keeping my distance just in case the kite got a direct hit by lightning.

I did the experement several years ago.

I was wondering if there is a better way to pick up electricity from a storm?
 
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alec_t

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Another Benjamin Franklin, eh? Great experiments.
a better way to pick up electricity from a storm?
Do you mean safer or more efficient? :)
Subject to local laws, closeness to flight paths, safety issues etc I guess you could use a helium balloon with a conductive tether.
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Didn't Benjamin Franklin discover something similar? ;)

This may also be of interest to you.
Source:Wikipedia
Sky voltage refers to an electrostatic voltage gradient that is present in the free air of the atmosphere, and which can have a different voltage potential relative to the surface of the planet. The gradient varies with atmospheric humidity, dropping lower on days with high humidity, and higher in very dry air. The voltage potential averages about 120 volts per meter.
John
 

kubeek

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Flying a kite with a storm 5 miles away seems very dangerous. I hope you are sane enough to stay alive.
The problem I see is that the baloon would produce some small current when near a storm and short bursts of higher current when the lightning strikes. This will prove hard to transform into any form of usable energy. A neon bulb needs very little current, but anything larger needs constant source of much larger power, so you would have to store the energy somehow.
 

gary350

Well-Known Member
Sometimes the electricity goes off during a thrunder storm it would be interesting if I could come up with a way to get some free light during the storm. I was wondering if there is a better way to pick up more electricity from the air. The neon light barely makes enough light to get a key into a key hole.

The outside experement with the kite made a lot of light from the fluorescent light but I would be afraid to have anything like that attached to lights in the house it might cause the house to get a direct lightning strike.

I was talking to a guy at the local power company he was telling me when they run new power lines several miles and they are not even connected to any power source yet those power lines pick up enough static electricity from the air to know you out cold if you touch them. He said if there is a thunder storm within 40 miles they have to be careful even if the now power line are going only 5 miles and no where near the storm.

I have 300 candles I picked up at yard sales for 5 cents to 50 cents each. The photo shows 100 candles in the living room some you can not see all the candles. I took this photo with NO flash. These make plenty of light but in 45 minute the temperature in the living room goes from 70 degrees F up to 85 degrees F and it is 20 degrees F outside. I can heat the house with candles in the winter if I need to. Problem is, in the summer when we have thunderstorms candles make too much heat it is usually already 90 to 100 degrees outside.

 
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Sceadwian

Banned
I guess in theory it could be done, but you'd need high voltage capacitors to buffer the charge and then you'd immediately have to feed that power to a switcher and convert the voltages down to a sane level. Considering the variability of the power you have coming in the control electronics would probably be tricky.

It would be far far safer and much more practical if you have power outages commonly to simply keep a small bank of lead acid batteries on float charge all the time. Run LED or CFL lighting from efficient switching regulators and you'll get plenty of run time off a lead acid pack.

By the way, even on a calm day the line will pick up some power, just from the wind rushing across the wire. The problems with harnessing anything practical aren't easy to overcome, first of all you have to keep the kite in the sky, and secondly you have to protect yourself from more serious electrical strikes.
 
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gary350

Well-Known Member
I have a light connected to an electrolitic capacitor it will stay on for almost 1 hour from the charge in the cap. I have a diode and resistor is series from the wall 120 VAC outlet keeping the cap charged. The cap pulls power for about 2 second to charge after that there is no noticable power being used. Turn the light on and it stays on for almost an hour from the charge in the cap being released slow through a resistor. I could make more of these or a large cap bank.

I wonder if caps connected in parallel are like batteries connected in parallel. A small micro volt difference between batteries in parallel the higher voltage battery trys to charge the lower voltage battery and it runs itself dead. It seems to me if 1 cap was leaking down the other caps would try to charge it.
 

alec_t

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Most Helpful Member
I have a diode and resistor is series from the wall 120 VAC outlet keeping the cap charged.
I hope you're aware that cap can hold a lethal charge!

Caps in parallel will distribute charge amongst themselves such that the voltage across each cap is the same.
 

DerStrom8

Super Moderator
I have a light connected to an electrolitic capacitor it will stay on for almost 1 hour from the charge in the cap. I have a diode and resistor is series from the wall 120 VAC outlet keeping the cap charged.
that seems really dangerous, gary. Not sure I'd recommend doing that--as mentioned, that cap is storing a deadly charge, and there's the possibility of an explosion, too. I wouldn't connect an electrolytic capacitor to an AC source without full-wave rectification.
 

Reloadron

Well-Known Member
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Nice touch with the candles! :) Reminded me of my younger days.

I suggest you give this a read. I also suggest you read completely through the comments.

Back around circa 1960 I built my first short wave antenna, It was a 1/4 wavelength 40 meter dipole. The selection was based on the dimensions of my parents property and the availability of standing large trees. :)

I was also playing around with building basic crystal radios using a chunk of crystal and the then new 1N34 Germanium diode. Something I noticed (profound moment in my childhood life) was that when my antenna line (RG-58U Coax) brushed against ground, there were small sparks. While at 10 years old I had much to learn, I did figure out there was electricity present. I never gave any thought to harnessing this electricity but was content listening to WHLI Radio on headphones sans any power. The classic "Look Ma no batteries" applied.

While the presence of thunder storms in the area may increase the amount of electricity available I don't, even today, see much merit in trying to harness it.

Gary you mention:

I have a light connected to an electrolitic capacitor it will stay on for almost 1 hour from the charge in the cap. I have a diode and resistor is series from the wall 120 VAC outlet keeping the cap charged. The cap pulls power for about 2 second to charge after that there is no noticable power being used. Turn the light on and it stays on for almost an hour from the charge in the cap being released slow through a resistor. I could make more of these or a large cap bank.

I wonder if caps connected in parallel are like batteries connected in parallel. A small micro volt difference between batteries in parallel the higher voltage battery trys to charge the lower voltage battery and it runs itself dead. It seems to me if 1 cap was leaking down the other caps would try to charge it.
But you do not mention Capacitor value(s) nor do you mention the light as in current or voltage? I would be curious?

When used as a storage device capacitors are not all that great. They suffer leakage among other problems. Simply not practical.

Personally and just my thinking I see a simple solar panel maintaining a battery as a much better solution of what to do when the lights go out than trying to maintain a charge on a capacitor to power a light when the mains power goes away.

I will point out that when storms and lightening moved in my antenna was grounded, not that it would matter much with a lightening strike on my antenna but at least it was not connected to my equipment.

Ron
 

gary350

Well-Known Member
The light I was using on the 2 coils was an NE2.

The cap was a power supply cap that contains 3 caps in one metal can. The resistor is current limiting to less than 1 amp so the charging capacitor cannot over load the diodes. The diode is 1N4007 rated 1000 volts 1 amp. 120VAC charges the cap to 169 VDC. The NE2 has a resistor in series with it.

The fluorescent light bulb was and f96T12cwho.
 
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4pyros

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
The cap was a power supply cap that contains 3 caps in one metal can.
Whats the voltage rating on the cap?
Sorry to say you have not discovered anything new. Its a neat novelty but not practical to use for any real work. Kind of like a potato battery.
But keep on thinking someday you may fine somthing good to help "save the world".
 

davenn

Active Member
hi Gary,

The real problem with trying to harness lightning as a voltage source is how you are going to contain it. Lightning strikes are very transient ie. brief... milliseconds.
and in those milliseconds you have millions of volts with many 1000's of amps. VERY difficult to deal with! :)

Science fiction is fun tho and I remember one episode of Stargate SG1 when they used direct lightning strikes to charge the "capacitors" and operate the stargate

cheers
Dave
 

atferrari

Well-Known Member
Long and high antenna

In the radio of a naval station there was a dipole antenna that had been used for radiodifusion service (CW) on 416 KHz, erected at more than 50 or 70 m above ground. It was really long.

Albeit the spark gap was close to the ceiling of a very tall building, it was easy to hear the sparks when a cumulus was passing above.
 

gary350

Well-Known Member
I'm not trying to capture lightning strikes they are 500 to 1000 ft long there is no way to capture that. What I am thinking about is the static electricity in the air. This probably is not practical either because the power is so low. I like to experement it is fun. It would be interesting if I could get a little bit more light maybe a larger coil of wire.....some day. During the peak of the storm the neon stays on all the time plus it flashes bright when there are lightning strikes. I'm not sure if the larger diameter coil makes the neon brighter of if it is because the larger diameter coil has longer wire wound on it. That is something else to experement with, does longer wire or larger diameter make the difference.
 
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atferrari

Well-Known Member
While I read your post I cannot avoid recalling the so many cases of people injured or killed by lightning in this part of the world. The last case, a lady in the midle of a litoral beach two weeks ago.
 

gary350

Well-Known Member
While I read your post I cannot avoid recalling the so many cases of people injured or killed by lightning in this part of the world. The last case, a lady in the midle of a litoral beach two weeks ago.
That is because she did not have a Faraday Cage.
 
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