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Product: Weapon: Electromagnetic
Lightning Railgun   (+1, -1)  [vote for, against]
Cheap electricity

For decades, people have fanticised about harnessing lightning to replace power plants. The biggest obstical has been storage. If the charge is too large to be stored, why not have it power something that needs it's full potential?

Let's use it to power railguns. The military already has gigantic megawatt-sucking railguns for use on aircraft carriers, so why not power them with a little alternative energy? Wait for a stormy day, then attract lightning by launching a little rocket with a wire attatched to it. The wire provides an excellent path to the sea for the lightning, and it gladly races down through it, powering the railgun with a resounding ZOT.

It wouldn't work when there is a lack of electrical activity in the skies, but it would sure save fuel when it does work.
-- Aq_Bi, Jan 25 2005

So near, yet so far: a good lightning strike is about 60,000 Amps; A typical short circuit in a 400V ac switchboard is around 40,000 Amps.
Lightning is impressive because it is a very high power rate in a very short space of time. The energy content isn't so good.
-- Ling, Jan 25 2005

If you sent the wire up well before the storm, would you be able to draw out the energy at a lesser rate?
-- tiromancer, Jan 26 2005

Ling's right... huge power, for a split second. The cost of the system would outweigh any potential savings, purely because it would be unused for 99.99% of the time. Aircraft carriers are already equipped with nuclear plants anyway, so the fuel saving wouldn't really matter in that case.
-- david_scothern, Jan 27 2005

So you can only take off during thunderstorms?
-- hippo, Jan 27 2005

I saw the title and thought, "Somebody's been playing too much Unreal Tournament."
-- Trout, Jan 27 2005

random, halfbakery