Atmospheric Electricity to Power Your Home?

Going green — By Stephanie on August 28, 2010 at 5:07 am
lightning 434 Atmospheric Electricity to Power Your Home?

Lightning strikes are filled with electricity

Electricity is in the air!  You know this is true, each time you witness a thunderstorm with bolts of lightening filling the skies.  But could you use atmospheric electricity to power your home?

Researchers are working on technology that could someday draw electricity from thin air.  Building on centuries of research, theories and analysis in the field of atmospheric electrodynamics, today’s scientists may finally be close to the silver bullet of hygroelectricity.

Science Daily published an article following the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society at which the potential of atmospheric electricity was discussed:

“Our research could pave the way for turning electricity from the atmosphere into an alternative energy source for the future,” said study leader Fernando Galembeck, Ph.D. His research may help explain a 200-year-old scientific riddle about how electricity is produced and discharged in the atmosphere. “Just as solar energy could free some households from paying electric bills, this promising new energy source could have a similar effect,” he maintained.

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The new power source of the future? Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Martin Fischer

The more water there is in the air, the more potential electricity that can be pulled from it.  Galembeck discovered that tiny water droplets pick up a charge by noticing that dust particles comprised of silica and aluminum phosphate became increasingly charged as the humidity level rose.  He stated:

“This was clear evidence that water in the atmosphere can accumulate electrical charges and transfer them to other materials it comes into contact with.”

Using this discovery, the scientific team is working on a way to harvest hygroelectricity in humid regions by constructing hygroelectric panels with  metals that can best draw the charge from the air.  Similar technology could be used to help prevent damage from lightning strikes.  Hygroelectric panels on buildings could remove the charge from the air, protecting persons and properties (I’m thinking schools, hospitals and structures near parks or golf courses).

This alternative energy source is still in its infancy.  Researchers have a long way to go to further develop hygroelectric panels so that we can use atmospheric electricity to power our homes and workplaces.  Yet the findings so far are promising and exciting!  Dare I say, electrifying?!

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