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I would like to update my knowledge in this area, that is really out-of-dated and stopped somewhere like ten years ago.

I asked the very same question on my physics lecture at my studies and got the answer, that although some tests and experiments were made (by French scientists?), there is no material, either natural or man-made, that would suffer direct lightning hit and therefore could be used to "capture" and store energy from lightning, for future use or processing of any kind.

Can someone tell me, how does it looks now? Has anything changed during last ten years in this area?

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It's an engineering problem, not a physics one.. –  Vineet Menon Jul 4 '12 at 11:57
    
Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/19929/2451 –  Qmechanic Jul 4 '12 at 12:40
    
@VineetMenon: As I wrote, I'm a newbie in area of physics and have knowledge strongly outdated. But, for me lightning = electricity and electricity = physics, so I would disagree, that this particular question is more engineering than physics! :] –  trejder Jul 5 '12 at 7:15
    

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Basically: no cheap, efficient, large-scale battery technology exists.

This question gets asked in the world of intermittent renewable energy generation all the time, but it is even harder for lightning because of the extermely high power of the energy burst, so that's an extra problem to solve on top.

Also, how do you predict where it will strike? Build a massive antenna in every city?

The practical concerns outweigh the theoretical ones. Without a battery, you have a sudden jolt to the grid. Where does it go? You can't shut down another plant for a milisecond to save generation elsewhere.

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No cheap, efficient, large-scale battery technology exists - true. But pumped hydro storage is cheap, efficient, large-scale and does the same job as a battery. –  EnergyNumbers Jul 4 '12 at 12:01
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There's no way pumped hydro could absorb all the power from a lightning strike in one go though - it takes time to pump all that water, so its input power has to be distributed over that kind of timeframe. –  Matthew Walton Jul 4 '12 at 12:58
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Another consideration that could be added is that the available power from lightning isn't really all that much. The power source for lightning is only a tiny fraction of the wind energy that powers the storm - so it would make more sense to extract the power from the wind in the first place, or from the sunlight that ultimately powers the wind. –  Nathaniel Jul 4 '12 at 13:49
    
Thank you, everyone, for a professional and enlightning answers! :] –  trejder Jul 5 '12 at 7:17
    
On the battery technology: It seems a relatively small battery size would do given other estimates here and elsewhere of the amount of energy in the average bolt of lightning. The real issue is forcing all that charge in all at once - which it seems you could do with capacitors to reduce how rapidly the energy flows into the battery, and a battery that can handle fast charging. On the hydro comment, the idea is to switch off the hydro briefly while the bolt of lightning powers the grid, then turn the hydro back on - that's the fast-switching function of hydro. –  Chris Moschini Jul 26 at 6:49

An ordinary lightning rod will discharge the air during a storm, and so prevent lightning by channeling the charge into the ground through the rod. All you need to do is attach every lightning rod in a city to a rechargable battery or to an electric motor, and you extract the energy that would have been released in the lightning (that no longer happens) using the currents in the rods.

The total energy over the duration of the storm is not that high, the wattage is high, but the length of the strike is small. So there is no benefit of this over extracting power from the wind directly, as Nathaniel points out.

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Are you sure that it could be used to charge a battery or run a motor? It is a lot of energy delivered in extremely short time--it will usually just melt through anything you try. –  Manishearth Jul 5 '12 at 4:36
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@Manishearth: Lightning rods don't get struck by lightning, they continuously drain the atmosphere of the imposed potential from the cloud charge separation, thereby preventing lightning from striking in the first place. As such, the current is never huge, and it is roughly constant, with down spikes only when the clouds discharge by cloud-to-cloud lightning, and upsurges when there is more charge separation. They just drain the energy of lightning out continuously over a long time, and you could capture this energy, except it's too small to be useful. –  Ron Maimon Jul 5 '12 at 6:20
    
Oh shoot--lighting rods. For some reason I thought you were tapping energy from a lightning strike (as asked in the question) –  Manishearth Jul 5 '12 at 6:22
    
@Manishearth: The energy produced by lightning rods is the same energy that would have been released in the lightning that would have happened in the region, had you not installed the lightning rods. So it answers the question--- this is the energy of the lightning strike, captured and potentially stored (except it's not worth it). –  Ron Maimon Jul 5 '12 at 6:24
    
Yeah, I'm not commenting on the correctness/appropriateness of your answer :) I just misinterpreted it at first.... –  Manishearth Jul 5 '12 at 6:25

fisrt know that there's a high possibility of not getting a transformer or a transmission of energy without wires(in the last fear year i learnt about that when an lightning strikes the kita the electric current goes down to the ground heating any object,thus happens by that the surface consist of electrons,the ground is having protons which then attracts the protons from the ground )the mainthing here is that there can be left electrons which then can repidly happen gradually .my conlusion is that the voltage of the lightning is very high and is very not easily eclined or transmitted when lightning strikes.

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I'm not going to down-vote you, since this answer is already negative, but here's some advice. Generally, unless your answer is VERY insightful, you will get down-voted is you don't bother to capitalize your sentences and make a lot of spelling mistakes that a spell-checker would have fixed for you. Good luck. –  Patrick M Mar 18 '13 at 4:18

One direction to take this would be in the way of lightning propagation. Using super conductive fluid expelled from the exhaust of a 2 foot rocket in the proper conditions, say Florida, and you could induce a strike in a very controlled, accurate way. Launch it off a tower like done in this experiment, and you could potentially develop ground infrastructure to establish a "lightning farm" for harvesting power.

Clearly there are many problems as to how to capture energy, but this does solve some solutions. Check out their website. They have a lot of Amazing photographs taken of this working.

What do you people think? Time to invent the world's most capable conductive material? If you could create a massive dish, like Arecibo in Puerto Rico, of some super durable heat resistant material. It might create an irresistibly attractive single multiplied positive streamer to attract your induced lightning strike. Hopefully its unified positive attraction strength would overwhelm the forces of the misaligned flux lines which are due to the misshapen cloud undersides, and the tendency for the air (particulate matter) to force the strike in awkward directions.

Still the massive storage problem and millions O others sigh...

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2013 costs of kWh are about .16 cents. I've read that a lightening strike generates approximately 8kWh. The profit from selling this captured power would be about $1.28. Tell me where I am wrong.

As far as converting the strike into power that is easy and can be done with existing technology. Direct the strike into a container of noble gases. Power then excites the noble gases into a rapidly expanding plasma. Increased pressure from expansion can be coupled to do mechanical work, e.g. a piston.

See Joseph Papp and his "Papp Engine."

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8kWh seems like an underestimate. I've seen 5GJ or let's say 1000kWh. (Also, I guess lightning would be renewable energy :-) Where I live, that can sell for a hefty premium, e.g. solar gets 54.9 cents/kWh where nuclear gets 5.6 ...) –  Retarded Potential Apr 15 '13 at 21:59

protected by Qmechanic Apr 15 '13 at 18:30

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