Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Ionic Wind Power

A wind powered generator with no moving parts
  (+6, -5)
(+6, -5)
  [vote for,

Imagine two mountains, one directly down-wind of the other. On the up-wind mountain, set up an ion generator to ionize air molecules.

The wind carries the charged ions several miles away to the other mountain, where a big metal mesh is set up to collect the ions.

Connect the metal grid to the ion generator to close the circuit - you've got a relatively small current, but a HUGE voltage, hence lots of power.

There are lots of mountainous places where the wind almost always blows in the same direction.

TomRC, Aug 23 2002

Ionic Wind Kit http://www.ramseyel...eadd=action&key=IG7
[BinaryCookies, Aug 23 2002]

Amateur Scientist: "Kelvin's Thunderstorm" http://www.amasci.com/emotor/kelvin.html
Beaty's Amateur Scientist [sob...] column about the same thing with drops of water. [jutta, Aug 26 2002]

Patented! http://patimg2.uspt...&idkey=8FEFA42D8C4E
The essence of this idea was patented quite a few years ago. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004]

Vane-less Ion Wind Turbine Redundant [omegatron, Jul 30 2005]

A real patent http://patft.uspto....396&RS=PN/4,206,396
Alvin Marks' US4206396 Charged aerosol generator with uni-electrode source - Uses aerosol water drops, though; not air. [omegatron, Jul 30 2005]

Same idea but with solar powered droplets? http://patft.uspto....entnumber=4,433,248
Charged aerosol wind/electric power generator with solar and/or gravitational regeneration [omegatron, Oct 26 2006]


       Oh yeah - and it wouldn't have to be on a mountain - it could be a ring of towers in a windy desert.
TomRC, Aug 23 2002

       You could use the power produced by your ion collector to run the ion generator. No, wait, you couldn't.
angel, Aug 23 2002

       hahahaha *snort* good one, angel
thumbwax, Aug 23 2002

       I think you'd actually get either cloud seeding, causing torrential rain, or provoke massive thunderstorms. Show me the math, [TomRC].
8th of 7, Aug 23 2002

       [angel] I may be missing something here, (I often am) but I don't think this idea warrants the 'don't be silly perpetual motion isn't possible' response. Surely some energy is entered into the system by the wind?
Zircon, Aug 23 2002

       As there are no moving parts, the wind itself doesn't contribute to the energy production, it simply moves the ions from the generator to the collector. There may be an increase in the kinetic energy of each ion, but I doubt it. (Physicists feel free to jump in here.) In any event, this goes way beyond perpetual motion. [TomRC] wants the ions produced by his generator to provide more energy than it cost to produce them, which ain't gonna happen.
angel, Aug 23 2002

       Er...the wind itself is the moving part, shirley?   

       The fatal flaw that I see is that, come the next patch of stormy weather, nature herself will obligingly correct the ion imbalance, obliterating your apparatus with blasts of lightning.
DrCurry, Aug 23 2002

       So how does wind impinging on a metal mesh generate energy?
angel, Aug 23 2002

       Someone please explain this it's confusing me. Also anyone that can think of a marked-for-deletion- proof suggestion for the obvious 'ironic wind power' pun-dea gets a croissant just for inventiveness.
Zircon, Aug 23 2002

       [angel] Yes, some energy is required to make the ions. But the greatest amount of work lies in separating the charges - the further apart you want them (and the larger the amount of charge), the more work you need to do. That is where the wind does work - i.e adds energy to the system. No perpetual motion involved - it's the same process that creates lightning.
TomRC, Aug 23 2002

       [DrCurry] Yes, technically the wind is a moving part of the system. I meant it in the sense of "no moving parts to wear out".
TomRC, Aug 23 2002

       Essentially a huge capacitor, then? I might vote + if there's some brief description of the method of ion generation.   

       Where's Vernon when we need him? Oh wait... I said *brief.*
RayfordSteele, Aug 23 2002

       In the event that this happens to work, are there any practical applications for this lightning-like extremely high voltage, low current power source? It seems like if this type of power could be stored and applied effectively, that maybe we could also harness the power from lightning or the static charge that develops prior to the actual lightning strike.
half, Aug 24 2002

       [half] It would be designed to continously bleed off the downwind charge, and step the voltage down and current up to suitable levels for use. You can't easily do that with lightning's power source, since one end is up in the clouds.
TomRC, Aug 24 2002

       what happens to anything going through the middle?
chud, Aug 24 2002

       BAKED! This is patented, A. Marks "Power Fence" electrostatic generator. Essentially it's just the "Kelvin's Thunderstorm" turned on its side, where wind energy does the work instead of water falling via gravity. Marks used charged aerosol (fine water spray) rather than ions. One thing missing: the collector screen must be pre-charged to a high voltage with the same polarity as the ions. Moving air must FORCE the ions into the collector screen (it's like corona leakage, only backwards.) If the screen runs at a few megavolts and collects a few milliamps of ions, that's a few thousand watts of DC output.
wbeaty, Aug 24 2002

       Explanation: make some charged air, then let the wind push this charged air against electrical repulsion into an alike-charged metal mesh. The metal mesh will become MORE charged. It's a capacitor which is getting charged up via wind power. The energy flowing into such a capacitor is far more than the energy used to create the charged wind. (Analogy: the energy used to run the field coils in a power plant generator is FAR smaller than the output coming from the generator's rotor coils.)   

       re: ions striking the mesh. If you use a 3-layer mesh with the inner layer being woven fine, then the outer layers act as an electrical shield. Any ions which are blown past the coarse-woven first layer will think that the middle mesh is "ground" and will be strongly attracted.   

       re: perpetual motion: yes, you can use the output of the system to drive the ion generator. It's just like using the output of a conventional AC generator to run its field coils. (It might be hard to get it started without a power supply, but once it's running you can remove the "kicker" supply.)
wbeaty, Aug 24 2002

       It's been done with charged water droplets in the lab, but you're buggered in the real world if it decided to rain ...
willard_b_trophy, Mar 14 2004

       I don't think this would work. You're going to somehow charge up neutral air molecules as they move past a negatively-charged mesh, but you're going to charge them up positively? And then you're going to expect the wind to move them towards a positively charged mesh, which they are repelled from and will try their hardest to go around instead of touching, and then they are going to finally touch the positively charged mesh and somehow become neutral again by making the positively charged mesh even more positive? It seems like a nice idea; just turn an ionic breeze around backwards, but I'm not so sure it's a reversible process...   

       I don't think that patent is related.   

       // Essentially a huge capacitor, then?   

       Capacitors have this thing called an insulator in between the two plates...
omegatron, Jul 30 2005

       Oh WAIT a second...   

       So these lifter things and ionic wind things work by setting up a large voltage across two electrodes. Then a corona discharge forms, and as the charged corona particles move from one electrode to the other, they impinge on neutral air molecules and impart momentum.   

       I don't know this for certain, but I expect that the loss of ion momentum would be seen as a resistance by the HV source. (R = V/I = V*dt/dQ. If you increase t by slowing down the particles but maintain the same amount of particles and same voltage, you have increased the resistance.)   

       Soooo, if you connect the device in exactly the same manner, but then push air through it in the same direction it would normally be propelled, the neutral air molecules will push on the corona ions and make them get to their destination faster, which would create a *negative* resistance, generating more current than would normally be expected for such a voltage.   

       I think.   

       I don't know enough about the electrical properties of a corona discharge.   

       Actually, I think all this would do is lower the resistance of the corona from what it would normally be. You wouldn't be getting any energy out of it.
omegatron, Jul 30 2005

       We already have a way to harness wind to generate power: turbines. Can anyone show that this generates energy better?
eyal, Apr 10 2007

       // Can anyone show that this generates energy better?   

       Well, given the fact that it is more complicated, less effective, and questionably within the laws of physics, it fits most of the HB standards for "better".
5th Earth, Apr 11 2007

       This demonstrably works. I've had it working on a small scale as a school science demonstration - originally as a demonstration of how a thundercloud generates high voltages. It's exactly analogous to how a Van der Graaf generator works.   

       There's no particular correlation between the energy cost of generating the ions and the energy converted from wind to electric potential - indeed it's highly likely to be a substantial net gain.   

       The biggest drawback is the size (read: cost) of conductor needed to complete the circuit - you get a nice high voltage, but the terminals are a damned long way apart.   

       I'll write later about tidal magnetohydrodynamic generation, which suffers the same problem (only even worse).
Cosh i Pi, Apr 11 2007

       Why do the terminals have to be a long distance apart? How long does it take for the ionized particles to reach the same speed as the ambient wind? I doubt it would take more than a few centimeters, meters at most.   

       Given this, couldn't you just put the anode mesh inside of the cathode mesh? That way your generator is omnidirectional. (I am assuming that you are using negative ions here, if not, reverse cathode/anode.)
Galbinus_Caeli, Apr 11 2007

       The terminals have to be a long way apart for the voltage to get big: the voltage is proportional to how far the wind has dragged the charged particles.   

       Until the wind separates the airborne charged particle from the one in the terminal, the voltage is only whatever you supplied to ionize the air in the first place.
Cosh i Pi, Apr 11 2007

       I understood that this system was gaining power from kinetic energy of moving ions. If that is the case then you can gain full power as soon as the working fluid reaches maximum speed.   

       If not, then what is the other power input?
Galbinus_Caeli, Apr 11 2007

       No, it's not the kinetic energy of the ions, it's the electrical energy of a charge moving against an electric field. The further it moves, the bigger the field you can make it move against without either (a) stopping it moving, or (b) causing a flashover.   

       I've not read all the comments - only the original suggestion and a few bits here and there. If anyone thought it was the KE, they'd misunderstood what's going on.   

       Of course the energy originates in the KE of the wind - but it's transferred to the ions continuously all the way from one electrode to the other.
Cosh i Pi, Apr 11 2007

       /charge moving against an electric field. The further it moves, the bigger the field/   

       Huh? An ion is an ion. You add an electron, to nitrogen you get N2+, you subtract one, you have N2-.   

       A N2+ ion over here on this mountain is exactly the same as one over there on that mountain. Making it over here and moving it over there is NOT going to make it more energetic. You are NOT going to get more energy out of it over there then you put into it over here.   

       Unless you also make that ion move faster or get hotter (which is really the same thing) or more ionized (strip away another electron and you have N2++) but all of those require energy input.   

       The only energy input I see mentioned here is wind, and once the ion is up to the ambient speed of the wind it is not going to gain any more energy from that source. This should happen in a couple of meters at most.
Galbinus_Caeli, Apr 11 2007

       So the energy (high voltage) is generated by the DISTANCE traveled by the ions striking the far plate, as they(or their charges) have to come all that way back?
GutPunchLullabies, Apr 11 2007

       [GPL] I think that would only work that way if the anode is the only available ground.
Galbinus_Caeli, Apr 11 2007

       That's sort of the problem I was envisioning.
GutPunchLullabies, Apr 11 2007

       It does only work if the voltage is limited to one that doesn't cause all your ions to go to ground, this is true. Your towers need to be pretty high, and you need enough wind that they reach the downwind electrode before they drift to ground. Getting it right so that you gain more power than you spend could be tricky, especially given that you want it to work under a reasonably wide range of conditions.   

       The wind isn't quite as reliable as the belt in a Van der Graaf generator (remember, this is your model).   

       But it does work, honestly. Nature does it spectacularly in thunderclouds.
Cosh i Pi, Apr 12 2007

simonj, Feb 13 2012


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