Atmospheric Electricity

Atmospheric electricity is the regular diurnal variation of the Earth's atmospheric electromagnetic network or, more broadly, any planet's electrical system in its layer of gases. The normal movement of electric charges among the Earth's surface, the various layers of the atmosphere, and especially the ionosphere, taken together, are known as the global atmospheric electrical circuit. A part of Earth Science, much of the reasoning required to explain these currents can be done within the field of electrostatics. Full understanding requires knowledge of several disciplines, not just electricity.  Eliminating, for the moment, consideration of the extremely dense charge populations that exist in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, a region called the ionosphere, filled with hot, dense, plasma gas whose ions give the ionosphere its name, we note that there is always some amount of unbound positive and negative, but net positive, electric charge in the atmosphere closest to the surface of the negatively charged Earth on a 'fine day'. When days are not so 'fine', the net unbound charge that exists in the clouds of thunderstorms can be exceedingly negative.  The 'fine day' net positive charge sets up an electric field between the negative Earth and the net positive charge in the air, and this electric field stores electrical energy. The positive charge acts by induction on the earth and electromagnetic devices.  

Experiments have shown that the intensity of this electric field is greater in the middle of the day than at morning or night and is also greater in winter than in summer. In 'fine weather', the potential, aka 'voltage', increases with altitude at about 30 volts per foot (100 V/m), when climbing against the gradient of the electric field. This electric field gradient continues up into the atmosphere to a point where the voltage reaches its maximum, in the neighborhood of 300,000 volts. This occurs at approximately 30–50 km above the Earth's surface. From that point in the atmosphere up to its outer limit, nearly 1,000 km, the electric field gradient produced in the lower atmosphere either ceases or has reversed.  Some authors hedge by making the following statement. In general, the atmospheric medium, by which the near Earth is surrounded, contains not only electric charges bound in atoms or molecules, or any form of matter, but it also contains a quantity of charge in an unbound state. Sometimes the unbound charges are positive, sometimes negative, but as a general rule most are of an opposite polarity to that of the Earth. Different layers, or strata, of the atmosphere, located at only small distances from each other, are frequently found to be in different electric states.  Global daily cycles, with a minimum and a peak at roughly 16:00 hours later, was researched by Carnegie Institution of Washington in the 20th century. This Carnegie curve variation is the fundamental electrical frequency of the planet.  The phenomena characterizing atmospheric electricity are of at least three kinds. There are thunderstorms, which create lightning bolts that 'instantaneously' discharge huge amounts of atmospheric charge to ground in a rapid release of energy stored in the electric field that built up to a particularly extreme degree in the storm clouds. There is a related phenomenon of continual electrification (re-charging) of the air in the lower atmosphere. A third phenomenon is that of the polar auroras.

Most authorities agree that whatever may be the origin of free electricity and the net unbound positive charge in the atmosphere, the generation of enormous currents (flow of electrons, negative charges), that flow between clouds and ground during a lightning discharge, begins with condensation of water vapor within the clouds; each minute water droplet moving through the air collects upon its surface a certain amount of negative charge by collecting 'free' electrons. As these tiny drops coalesce into larger drops, and still larger drops, there is a corresponding decrease in the total exposed surface upon which the collected electronic charges can be carried, raising the negative voltage as droplets combine. The combined negative electric potential of all the coalescing water drops rises until it overcomes the resistance of the, usually non-conductive, air, and jumps to earth in a flash, moving negative electrons against the electric field gradient. In effect, the lightning, acting as a charge pump, restores the positive charge of the lower atmosphere.  This remark will be more clearly understood when it is considered that, with a given charge, an object's potential rises as the electrical capacity of the object holding the charge is decreased, which is the case when the minute drops coalesce into larger drops. The similarity of lightning to the discharge of accumulated electrons developed on an electrical machine was demonstrated by Franklin in his memorable kite experiments.

A German student has built an electromagnetic harvester that recharges an AA battery by soaking up ambient, environmental radiation. These harvesters can gather free electricity from just about anything, including overhead power lines, coffee machines, refrigerators, or even the emissions from your WiFi router or smartphone. 

This might sound a bit like hocus-pocus pseudoscience, but the underlying science is actually surprisingly sound. We are, after all, just talking about wireless power transfer — just like the smartphones that are starting to ship with wireless charging tech, and the accompanying charging pads.

Dennis Siegel, of the University of Arts Bremen, does away with the charging pad, but the underlying tech is fundamentally the same. We don’t have the exact details — either because he doesn’t know (he may have worked with an electrical engineer), or because he wants to patent the idea first — but his basic description of “coils and high frequency diodes” tallies with how wireless power transfer works. In essence, every electrical device gives off electromagnetic radiation — and if that radiation passes across a coil of wire, an electrical current is produced. Siegel says he has produced two versions of the harvester: One for very low frequencies, such as the 50/60Hz signals from mains power — and another for megahertz (radio, GSM) and gigahertz (Bluetooth/WiFi) radiation. 

The efficiency of wireless charging, however, strongly depends on the range and orientation of the transmitter, and how well the coil is tuned to the transmitter’s frequency. In Siegel’s case, “depending on the strength of the electromagnetic field,” his electromagnetic harvester can recharge one AA battery per day. He doesn’t specify, but presumably one-AA-per-day is when he’s sitting next to a huge power substation. It makes you wonder how long it would take to charge an AA battery via your coffee machine, or by leeching from your friend’s mobile phone call.  Energy harvester, gathering power from a coffee machine's ambient electromagnetic radiation.

As a concept, though, Siegel’s electromagnetic harvester is very interesting. On its own, a single harvester might not be all that interesting — but what if you stuck a bunch of them, magnetically, to various devices all around your house? Or, perhaps more importantly, why not use these harvesters to power tiny devices that don’t require a lot of energy? Sensors, hearing aids (cochlear implants), smart devices around your home — they could all be powered by harvesting small amounts of energy from the environment.  One question does remain, though: How much ambient, wasted electromagnetic radiation is actually available? There are urban legends about people who install coils of wire in their garage, and then suck up large amounts of power from nearby power substations or radio transmitters. Would the power/radio company notice? Would it degrade the service for other people? Is this a likely plot for Die Hard 6: A better day to die hard?

Hendershot Generator Electromagnetic Atmospheric Receiver & Transformer DIY Kit

The Hendershot Electromagnetic Generator "DIY" Kit

Shipping Destination:

It has taken us months to find and put together all the parts needed for the Hendershot Electromagnetic Generator.  We have now made all of the parts available in a "Do It Yourself " kit so that you can make your very own Hendershot Generator.

Each "DIY" kit includes:

  • The Hendershot Generator Blueprints & Quick start Guide (PDF Files Downloaded off of Website)
  • 2.5 hour step by step video (Download from website or watch on youtube)
  • One piece of copper enameled wire, 50 meters long, 0.95 mm in diameter
  • Four pieces of copper PVC insulated copper wire, 9 meters long, 1.5mm in diameter (2 different color insulation)
  • 120 skew sticks, 1/8" in diameter
  • 2 unpolarized capacitors - 500 micro Farads each
  • 4 unpolarized capacitors - 1000 micro Farads each
  • 2 transformers 1:5 ratio for 110 / 220 Volts
  • One piece of copper PVC insulated copper wire, 10 meters long, 1 mm in diameter
  • One surface applicable 110 volts socket - US & Canada Only
  • Two furniture - drawer rails (the version with bearings)
  • Two cylindrical iron bars, 1/2" in diameter, 3" long
  • One rectangular iron bar, 4" long x 1" x 1/8"
  • One very powerful neodymium magnet (cylindrical)  1" x 1" x 4" long
kit does not include the plywood base or table to build on.  Pictures are for reference only and your kit might look slightly different.

*This kit has been put together for educational purposes only and we are not responsible for the end results or liable for any damage that may be caused by the end use of these components.  There is no return or refunds on electrical parts.  All electrical parts are covered under the manufactures warranty.  We are not responsible for what the end user ultimately does with this kit.  It is highly recommended that you consult an Electrical Engineer before building one of these units as well as a State Certified Electrical Contractor before hooking this electrical device up.  The buyer understands that they are only purchasing electrical parts and they assume all responsibility for the purchase and use of this kit.  There are no guarantees either written or implied.

Please allow 4 - 6 weeks for delivery.