Harnessing the power of lightning to charge a mobile phone

Sep 30, 2013
Harnessing the power of lightning to charge a mobile phone

Scientists from the University of Southampton have collaborated with Nokia on ground-breaking, proof-of-concept research into harnessing the power of lightning for personal use, an industry first that could potentially see consumers tap one of nature's significant energy sources to charge their devices in a sustainable manner.

With the help of scientist Neil Palmer of the University's Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory - one of the world's leading high voltage laboratories - research was undertaken to investigate how natural resources could be used to a charge a Nokia Lumia 925 with an energy simulation similar to that of a bolt of lightning.

"We were excited by this challenge presented to us by Nokia. Using an alternating current driven by a transformer, over 200,000 volts was sent across a 300mm gap – giving heat and light similar to that of a lightning bolt. The signal was then stepped into a second controlling transformer, allowing us to charge the phone," Neil said.

"We were amazed to see that the Nokia circuitry somehow stabilized the noisy signal, allowing the battery to be charged. This discovery proves devices can be charged with a current that passes through the air, and is a huge step towards understanding a natural power like lightning and harnessing its energy," he added.

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This experiment underlines Nokia's 150-year commitment to innovation and delivering the most pioneering products to its customers. That the Lumia 925 could withstand this sort of experiment is testament to the renowned high quality and durability of Nokia's devices and the company's continuing research to increase the already outstanding reliability of its products.

"This is a first for any mobile phone company to trial this kind of technology. We obviously aren't recommending people try this experiment at home, but we are always looking to disrupt and push the boundaries of technology and find innovative ways to improve the performance of our products," said Chris Weber, Executive Vice President for Sales & Marketing at Nokia.

"As one of the first companies to introduce wireless charging into our products, we believe that this experiment has the potential to jump-start new ideas on how we charge our phones in the future."

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User comments : 15

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MR166
1.3 / 5 (12) Sep 30, 2013
"Scientists from the University of Southampton have collaborated with Nokia on ground-breaking, proof-of-concept research into harnessing the power of lightning for personal use, an industry first that could potentially see consumers tap one of nature's significant energy sources to charge their devices in a sustainable manner."

Is Sept. 30 April Fools Day in England?
tadchem
1 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2013
A ham radio operator friend of mine has a neon lamp wired between his transmitter antenna and ground. Whenever there is a lightning storm in the vicinity (Texas' High Plains) a cloud-to-ground strike sends a pulse through the ground, and the charge difference between the ground and the antenna creates a current that causes his neon bulb to flash as a 'lightning detector.' Add a capacitor in parallel and you could charge a cell phone that way.
Moebius
1 / 5 (9) Sep 30, 2013
I was playing golf once in a light rain holding an umbrella. A bolt hit pretty far away, it was quite a few seconds before I heard it. The instant I saw the flash I got zapped pretty good in the head from the umbrella shaft. There is definitely energy being transmitted a long way. I don't carry an umbrella anymore.
MR166
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 30, 2013
Yeah, I did the neon bulb experiment also when I was a child. Energy and useful energy are two different things. If you want to get some useful free energy for your cell phone I suggest that you climb your local electric pole and wrap a few turns of wire around the 11KV wire at the top, in the rain. That might be safer than waiting for a lightning strike.
PPihkala
5 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2013
The energy contained in typical lightning is only like 4 kWh. Voltage and current are enormous, but the time is so short that the product is not much. Nobody in their right mind would blow out dynamite sticks and to try to use the released energy to heat one's house. The same goes to lightning.
MR166
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 30, 2013
Sometimes I think that articles like this are created by the university's psychology department in an effort to find out how ignorant and gullible the population is.
Neinsense99
1 / 5 (7) Oct 01, 2013
It just isn't the same without the old castle, a stagecoach and a hunchback assistant to complete the set.
scotto
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2013
Isn't this just a blatant ad for Nokia? There's no meaningul content here.
phlox1
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2013
What the hell is that?! Science from Nokia?!
Humpty
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 01, 2013
Great - take one lightning bolt..... One mobile phone..... some clever scientific shit...

Sit up on a hill - and wait... and wait and wait and wait.....

Some time in the next several hundred years.

"Yayyyyy I got me phone charged."

So yes it does work..

And this:

A ham radio operator friend of mine has a neon lamp wired between his transmitter antenna and ground. Whenever there is a lightning storm in the vicinity (Texas' High Plains) a cloud-to-ground strike sends a pulse through the ground, and the charge difference between the ground and the antenna creates a current that causes his neon bulb to flash as a 'lightning detector.' Add a capacitor in parallel and you could charge a cell phone that way.

A basic AM radio (running on batteries) works pretty good as well.

When the radio goes "FZZZT", the speed of sound is about 3 seconds per Km, 30 seconds = 10Km - get a direction on the storm - if it's passing by or coming over the top... then unplug everything if you need too.
phorbin
not rated yet Oct 01, 2013
Anyone designed something that lets you charge from a nearby microwave tower?
MR166
1 / 5 (10) Oct 01, 2013
If you are close enough to a microwave tower that you could charge a cell phone from the radiation you probably need to move.
MR166
1 / 5 (8) Oct 03, 2013
I don't really care about the amount of "5s or 1s" that I get on this board but it intrigues me that I could get a 1/5/4 for the above statement. Do any of the rocket scientists on this board realize how much radiation you would be exposed to if you could actually charge a cell phone from the ambient microwave radiation in your home???????
and7barton
not rated yet Oct 05, 2013
Is this charging the phone more through the steady voltage gradient between the sky and ground, rather than the short-lived flash from a lightning bolt ?
RadiantThoughts
not rated yet Oct 06, 2013
This is just a spamvert for nokia. Bad form phys.org