General Question

rowenaz's avatar

Can you collect electricity from Lightning Bolts?

Asked by rowenaz (2436points) June 15th, 2008

Would you be able to store the energy as a renewable source? If no or yes why?

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16 Answers

MisterBlueSky85's avatar

I think there are more reliable energy resources out there, ones with much more time, money, and effort already invested into making them commercially viable.

Skyrail's avatar

Well of course there are more viable sources of energy out there, but that’s not answering the question. Can you collect the electricity from a lightning bolt? No. If we could store electrical energy on such a large scale we would have done it already so that hospitals and sever centres wouldn’t need to have backup generators, they’d just use giant batteries. Lightning bolts contain hundreds of millions of volts worth of electricity per meter! They have phenomanal amounts of evergy, varying from bolt to bolt but can reach up into hundreds of terrawatts. This sort of energy just can’t be stored because of the sheer amount of it, I’m no physicist or electrical no-it-all, I have no idea how much energy a standard capaciter can hold but I highly doubt a feasible one could be created, if one at all. I’ve not looked into it and I’m just using this wikipedia article here: so dig around, and see what you can find ;)

Mtl_zack's avatar

yes. there are limitations of course. the energy involved in collecting the lighting outweighs the energy taken out from the lightning. another factor is that most of the lightning gets transferred into heat energy and light energy, even more so when it is collected. what skyrail was trying to say about the “hundreds of millions of volts worth of electricity per meter” actually refers to the hundreds of millions of volts that can theoretically be transferred to electrical energy. unfortunately, most of the energy is light and heat.

xyzzy's avatar

@skyrail pretty much nailed it. The problem with lightning is that all the energy is delivered all at once. We do not have the battery/capacitor technology to store 100 terawatts of power in the span of a second. They take much longer to charge.

marinelife's avatar

You might enjoy this discussion on Physics Forum.

ordosingularis's avatar

YES, it is possible. Is it feasible given horrible cost effectiveness? NO.

The potential gravitational energy of rain during a storm is many orders of magnitude greater than the energy of a lightning strike.

kapuerajam's avatar

yes run the cord from your lightning rod to your kitchen and make some toast yummy

bodyhead's avatar

I am under the impression that a lighting rod could be rigged to take in 1.1 gigawatts of power which should be just enough to propel a delorian forward through time.

ackermann's avatar

well, maybe one could take a huge electricaly isolated tank of salty water (not very expencive), place a kind of lid that is able to move without much problem (like a piston), place the tank high, place a conducting material (cooper rod) in contact with the water which will be the “intake” from the lightning and another condicting material in contact to the water and ground.
when the lightning came it will break the water molecule by hydrolisys, which will produce a huge volume of gas (H2 and O2, apart), this gas will move the piston which will store it all (theoricaly). this gases can be then used to whatever and the product of combustion is oviouslly water, so it is clean.

sorry for my grammar, english is not my first language…

rowenaz's avatar


rowenaz's avatar

Today we had thundersnow, which I had never heard of before.

1ducky3's avatar

well the piston, might not work, because the lightning comes and then goes, so my idea is to simply get something tat can move instantly after the lightning hits and if you use a copper rod, lightning turns an area really hot, so hot its hotter than the surface of the sun, so its gonna be a beautifully hard challenge, but im also working on that.

LPNTES's avatar

Think in a huge resistance square spread allover an area of something close to 30 m(2). Then under a superficial skin you got your self a huge power station that would simply keep the energy flowing with minimal losses in a DC circuit, so it could be stored. Of course this is just theory, but imagine. Im no genius (and I might just have said the stupidest thing in human history, if so correct me)

s321scba's avatar

@lpntes @rowenez you already have a highly resistive layer over the entire earth, the air, that’s why lightning only comes in such powerful surges, all you need is to control the flow, it’s already directed with lightning rods, the greater the resistance the greater the buildup by decreasing the risistance between the charges you can spread out the strikes into more manageable transfers one way to do this is to decrease the distance through the air the charges travel, to do this you could try to build a humungus 300 story tower, you could build a bouyant cable tower supported by (weather) ballons/blimps every 100ft or so (not good in stormy weather), or you could connect a high area (mountain) with a low area (valley), another way is to decrease the resistance of the air, nicola tesla did experiments with making plasma with accousticly calculated lasers to transfer electricity, the electric potentials could be monitored and plasma bridges formed after the charge transfer will cover the energy it took to make the bridge, i think the mountain valley concept is the most economically possible but the weather balloon and plasma bridge ideas might work (with research) on oceans.

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