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You are here: > News > July 10, 2005

BLAM-O!!  Power from Lightning

Having demonstrated a smaller prototype using artificial lightning, Todd Livingstone is now waiting for the next lightning storm to test his full-scale prototype for harnessing the energy of a lightning strike.

by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News
Copyright © 2005

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 capturing apparatus.

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 real thing.

"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 machinery remotely.

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 prototype testing.

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 storage setups?

Off-the-Shelf Technology

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 (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.
Source: (article)

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 planet’s 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 said.

"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.


  • Business/administrative
    Neil Penttinen <email >
  • Technical/engineering
    Todd Livingstone <email >


Non-lethal weapons not always non-lethal

From: Mary-Sue
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 similarly designed.]

From [Index of stories that Arizona Central has run on stun guns. (thanks]

"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 armed robber."

"Just last week, police officers in Las Vegas were banned from using the stun guns on handcuffed prisoners and discouraged from applying direct multiple shocks."

"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 (Is There Such A Thing As A Nonlethal Gun?)

* * * *

Death Ray

* * * *

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 aiming!

-- anon


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 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,, 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

Text Reads: First Global Energy Independence Day on Nikola Tesla's birth date - July 10, 1856.  Tesla born "at the stroke of midnight" during a summer storm with lightning striking.


Related Coverage

Today in Free Energy (tm)
  • Spinning Power from Waste Energy: Louis Michaud’s 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, 2005)
  • The 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, 2005)



Follow-up Coverage

  • Aspiring 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)

See also

Page created by Sterling D. Allan July 6, 2005
Last updated December 24, 2014





"It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom." // "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right." -- Albert Einstein

ADVISORY: With any technology, you take a high risk to invest significant time or money unless (1) independent testing has thoroughly corroborated the technology, (2) the group involved has intellectual rights to the technology, and (3) the group has the ability to make a success of the endeavor.
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   Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

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When you're two steps ahead,
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