ANDERSON, IN, USA -- Who would have ever thought that the concept behind
directed energy weapons could be turned around to tap the energy of lightning
for generating electricity?
That is basically what inventor, Todd Livingstone, intends to do -- and has been
doing with a smaller-scale device using artificial lightning.
The Power of Lightning
One lightning strike
has enough energy to light 150,000,000 light bulbs.
Livingstone says that one lightning strike typically packs eleven gigawatts,
and that a mega strike, which shows up rarely in winter storms, for example, can
pack as much as 300 gigawatts. The Discovery Channel in Canada put this in
layman's terms, explaining that one lightning strike has enough energy to light
150,000,000 light bulbs. (ref)
An Atlanta Journal article states that one storm can discharge enough
energy to supply the entire U.S. with electricity for 20 minutes. And there are
approximately 2,000 thunderstorms at any given moment worldwide. (ref)
If only a portion of that energy could be harnessed.
Historically, the obstacles to achieving such a feat have included: being at the
right place at the right time; being able to collect a large amount of energy in
a short period of time without being killed; storing that energy; and then
releasing that energy in a manageable way.
The blockbuster movie Back to the Future featured an attempt to do this.
The Einstein-haired Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, was trying to
capture a lightning bolt to feed power into the time-machine DeLorean and get
Marty back to his own time. Doc should have been fried when the lightning struck
the actual cable he was holding to plug it back into the socket. Vast numbers of
people have seen this movie and may not realize how dangerous this kind of
attempt can be.
Livingstone thinks he has the answer to all of these challenges, and that the
device costs will easily be worth the small investment considering the amount of
usable energy that will be generated. He even envisions that the
technology could be employed for weather modification in diffusing or
diminishing large storms, including tornados, to reduce material damage.
The idea is to redirect that energy to useful applications.
Turning Directed Weapons Technology Around
Livingstone's career has been in high-voltage electronics. His training
and daily experiences in that field have led him to be curious about how to
harness lightning power -- a puzzle he has been working on for years.
For the past year he has been working for Xtreme Alternative Defense
Systems. XADS has made the news in past months for their
"non-lethal" directed-energy stun weapons that are now being used or
tested by the military, law enforcement, and homeland security, as well as by
civilians. (See feedback comment: non-lethal weapons not
always non-lethal.) A Discovery Channel special referred to this
technology in the third of three segments called "The Science of Star Wars!
-- War, Weapons, and the Force." (ref)
XADS sells directed-energy weapons that use a laser beam to send a non-lethal
electric charge to the target person or animal.
Livingstone reverses the technology, using a laser beam to attract lightning
bolts into a collecting apparatus to harness their energy. This solves one of
the primary obstacles -- getting the lighting to strike where you want it.
You just wait for the storm, direct your laser at the cloud, and "BLAM-O!"
Unlike using a weapon to send out the blast, with this device you intentionally
make the blast incoming.
"Tesla would have been proud," says Livingstone. Ben Franklin
might have shown some interest as well.
How it Works
From left to right: Leiden jar, Vandergraph
generator, laser, coil, electrolysis.
Because he is in process of filing for a patent, Livingstone is not divulging
all the particulars of the design, but he does share some generalities. The
technologies involved are really "quite simple," he says.
By using a nitro laser (a ten-year-old, inexpensive technology), Livingstone
causes ionization in the air. This creates a pathway of lower resistance for a
lightning bolt to travel along, thus directing it to the receiving end of his
In his smaller, proof-of-concept prototype, the high-voltage bolt is created
using a Leiden jar and Vandergraph
generator -- very commonplace and well-understood technologies.
Livingstone says: "The strike is then sent through an 'electronic
breakwater' to make the strike more manageable when the electricity comes out
the other end. It can then be electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen or
stored in a high-voltage capacitor array."
Other storage and release technologies could be utilized as well, such as the
Zinc/Zinc-oxide mechanism being used by at least one Solar energy company. (ref)
Waiting for the Next Storm
While Livingstone has used his proof-of-concept arrangement many times
successfully, he has yet to test the larger prototype designed to harness the
"I'm just waiting for the next storm to come through," he said.
But he's not going to be anywhere near the lightning when it hits. He plans to
be about a mile away, and will use a laser-guided control to operate the
He may coordinate with the local weather service to be notified of when a
suitable storm is picked up on radar. Also, he mentioned that there are
lightning chasers, similar to the tornado chasers made famous in recent feature
films. Perhaps in the future he could employ these storm chasers for
If Livingstone decides to go into production of mobile power-capture units, this
might go beyond testing. Is this a future career for the adventurous
entrepreneur? In the future will we see roving lightning wranglers selling
hydrogen to vehicle owners, or inputting power to pre-installed battery or other
Between E-bay and the local junkyard, Livingstone guesses that he has invested
somewhere around $500 US in his two prototypes, including the two nitro lasers.
He uses a 35 kilovolt nitro laser to trigger the artificial lightning bolt of
electricity on his proof-of-concept prototype. Waiting in the wings is a
100 kV nitro laser he plans to use to trigger real lightning, creating the
"conveyor belt" to direct the cloud to release its lightning discharge
into his collection apparatus. In the future, when adequate research and
development funding is obtained, "a more suitable tool would be a free
electron laser", he said.
Also, advancements in superconductors will increase the capturing efficiencies
of the system.
In terms of efficiency, one thing to bear in mind is that a significant amount
of energy is lost just in the bolt going from sky to ground.
Simplistically, it is dissipated through the air as heat. The idea is that
once it arrives on the ground, to capture as much as possible, as efficiently
as possible -- and as safely as possible!
Theory Verification from the Columbia Shuttle Disaster
Columbia Shuttle information source: Article at Holoscience.com
(Feb. 8, 2005)
On February 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed as it re-entered
earth's atmosphere. While the official story is that this was a result of
tiles that were damaged upon take-off, there is another reason being
expounded. A time-lapse photograph taken by amateur astronomer, Peter
Goldie, shows a bolt of what was probably mega-lightning traversing the ionized
trail of Columbia.
The photo provides evidence that an artificially-created, ionized path can
provide a preferred path for lightning. In addition to the trail photo,
the "spark erosion" pattern shown on re-constructed tiles from a
section of the Shuttle's wings support a lightning-induced cause.
This also points to a fascinating potential for this technology --
mega-lightning from a cloudless sky. There were no thunderstorms in the
area at the time.
Rare mega lightning comes from positive charge
at the top of the thunderstorm.
Yoav Yair of the Open University of Israel has documented such high-level
lightning to occur in the absence of thunderstorms based on the observations of
Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon who witnessed an unprecedented red flash in the
ionosphere 1000 kilometers from the nearest lightning.
NASA's fly by of Venus showed occasional mega-lightning strikes on that planet
-- a situation that is minimized on earth by the low lying water vapor layer in
the atmosphere that serves as a buffer.
Could a laser-induced ionized path from ground to the upper reaches of the
atmosphere tap mega-lightning in the absence of clouds? The technology
advancement required to accomplish that would be years in the future, after the
process of harnessing the lower-power, more localized lightning has been
refined, and the receiving devices perfected. A better understanding of
the environmental ramifications would hopefully be profiled by then.
Environmental Considerations and Weather Modification
As with any energy technology, this technology has probable environmental
ramifications. A dam, for example, impedes the flow and spawning of fish,
and hampers the natural flood cycles that replenish the soil downstream.
Wind turbines kill birds. (ref)
Horizontal turbines may mitigate this problem. (ref)
Solar panels fry bugs. Oil spills are an obvious environmental boondoggle,
not to mention the global warming that comes from their combustion at the level
we are presently burning oil in this planet.
What will be the environmental impact of harnessing lightning? How will it
impact the minor role that lightning plays in nitrogen fixing for soil health? (ref)
What about dissipating storms?
While this technology might take some of the deadly punch out of storms,
reducing hail damage and tornados, what will its long-term effects be on the
Earth's ecosystem? Are there hidden costs -- effects that science is not
yet advanced enough to comprehend?
According to the developing plasma universe theory, lightning results not just
from clouds but also from the planets interaction with the electrodynamic
solar system. (ref 1, ref
2) We have not yet begun to understand all the implications of this energy
milieu. Normally, lightning bolts strike apparently randomly, but possibly their
distribution is governed by an overall planetary energy-balancing system we do
not yet grasp. Will the balancing effects of lightning be unsettled if it is
being redirected and its power captured?
Livingstone plans on taking such things into consideration, but is confident
that the overall benefits for mankind and the earth as well at this time
(providing yet another alternative to fossil fuels and their role in global
warming) far outweigh any costs.
The Amanda Project
As with any project or invention, we humans like to affix a name for
it. Livingstone has chosen to call this "The Amanda Project",
and when his website is ready to launch, it will be located at
The story behind this is that Livingstone has a friend who is a model, and she
was on a downer one day, fretting that she will never be famous. Inasmuch
as he thinks that this project will become well-known, he chose to surprise her
by naming it after her. "She needing a little cheering up," he
"The biggest projects often have had simple names," he said,
"like the Manhattan Project, or the Apollo Project. This project is
likely to be very big."
Looking for Help
Livingstone is looking for help to bring this invention forward, and to
launch this new energy business. His invitation is open to fellow
innovators as well.
# # #
- Thanks to Mary-Sue
Haliburton for editorial assistance and keen input, especially regarding
the Columbia scenario and the Plasma Field Theory.
Neil Penttinen <email >
Todd Livingstone <email >
Non-lethal weapons not always non-lethal
Sent: Friday, July 08, 2005 2:59 PM
Subject: [pes_news] "non-lethal" edit (Re: lightning wranglers)
The reports from non-official media is that these stun weapons are quite
damaging and may cause death. Though we regularly see characters in SF dramas
being hit with stun guns or alien ray weapons and getting up as if nothing has
happened, these are actors on television. They have not really been hit. About a
hundred people are said to have been killed with tasers (so far), though this
technology is claimed to be non-lethal. Some victims may have been sensitive
individuals or those taking medication.
Also, the non-lethal aspect is more like "not immediately lethal" and
later deaths can
be ignored or blamed on other factors.
[We might add that in the science fiction movies, these weapons have a
"stun" and "kill" setting, using the same device, just a
little more power. A modern military electronic weapon would probably be
[Index of stories that Arizona Central has run on stun guns. (thanks gail-davis.com)]
"77 cases of death following stun-gun use"
" . . . Arizona Republic analysis of police reports of Taser-related
incidents from 2003 found that Phoenix police were far more likely to use the
stun guns to make someone obey orders at a traffic stop than to bring down an
"Just last week, police officers in Las Vegas were banned from using the
stun guns on handcuffed prisoners and discouraged from applying direct
"The company's primary safety studies on the M26 model, which is far more
powerful than other stun guns, consist of tests on a single pig in 1996 and on
five dogs in 1999."
See also http://www.psotd.com/posts/1100445384.shtml
(Is There Such A Thing As A Nonlethal Gun?)
* * * *
* * * *
Columbia Downed by Particle Beam?
From: John Earle
Sent: Sunday, July 10, 2005 9:15 PM
Subject: RE: [FE_updates] Exclusive: BLAM-O -- Power from Lightning
More likely it wasn't a mega stroke, but a particle beam with intelligent
July 11, 2005 Note:
The above story was released publicly on July 10, 2005, the birth day of Nikola
Tesla. That coincidence was not intended, but ends up to be highly
profound. Also in regard to July 10, we at PESN.com did a story
on July 8 regarding the fact that the county of Los Angeles is the first
municipality to officially recognize July 10 as Global
Energy Independence Day. So at our daily news site, FreeEnergyNews.com,
on July 10, at the top of the page was the link to this lightning story as well
as a link to the Global Energy Independence Day story. With that in mind,
now consider the following synchronicity, brought to our attention by Bruce
Meland of Electrifying Times
who was alerted to it by David Cutter of Pleiades-Enterprises.com.
Power from Waste Energy: Louis Michauds Atmosphere Vortex Engine
- Tamed-tornado, anchored-vortex concept said to
offer a vast increase in electrical output using waste heat from existing
power plants. Small prototypes are promising. (PESN; December 14,
Hydrogen Gold Rush Is On - Todd Livingstone, an inventor and
electronics technician from Boston -- the town where Benjamin Franklin was
born 300 years ago next month -- has added a unique twist. Using lasers to
capture lightning bolts, he wants to channel them through a large tank of
water, producing near-limitless amounts of hydrogen. (Wired; Dec. 14,
Lightning Wrangler - More information from Todd Livingstone
regarding his plans to rope in the power of lightning. Phone interview
recording explains how he sets up his 'breakwater' to tame the strike. (PESN;
July 21, 2005)