Tag Archives: energy harvesting

Stormrouter – making WMDs from hurricanes or thunderstorms

I just had another idea for a new weapon of mass destruction for a future sci-fi novel, or for real life if we need it. This could work in real life, it’s just a little limited if it only works in storms.

I wrote a long time ago about harvesting energy from hurricanes using my collector. Carbon Girl and her other half Carbon Man use the idea in Space Anchor.

The original idea is summarised here:


Well, every superhero has enemies, and they have to be suitably matched or it is no contest, so let’s pretend in this case that our super-villain is called Stormrouter. No connection to Storm from the Fantastic Four though.

You can extract a few gigawatts from a hurricane with an extractor for quite a while, and I suppose you could use that energy to kill people, but that’s no good is it? The enemy probably won’t allow you to use an extractor on their turf. So that idea is only a peacetime thing really. However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Very often in a storm, there is lightning. Charge builds up due to the movement of the air, and when it reaches a critical point, a big spark happens, either between clouds or from the ground. Suppose we can make little particles that charge up by being thrown around in the wind, and suppose we can link them into chains at will, so that they can discharge via some unfortunate enemy. OK, so we can only use it when it is stormy, and yes the enemy could stay indoors then. But storms can last ages. Putting an enemy indoors for several hours, or even a few days, while you have your own people wandering around safely doing as they want would be quite an advantage. If they come outside, you zap them. Your own people don’t get zapped, just enemy people.

I damn near killed myself in a dare in my school physics lab once, or at least it felt like it. We were messing with a Wimshurst machine, great fun when the Physics teacher is late. A fraction of a turn charged up the rods to give you a hefty zap. At full charge they can throw a spark 2.5 inches (6cm). So my mates dared me to do several turns and then try. So I did. I wound it and wound it, and then put my finger towards the rod. I got nowhere near it before a hugely powerful spark hit me. I was a jibbering wreck for an hour afterwards. I guess if a kid did that today, they’d probably sue the school, but I had the old-fashioned view that if I was behaving like an idiot, then it was my fault. If you want to do that to yourself, you can buy them easily on ebay, but it hurts. The point is that the contra-rotating plates can build up thousands of volts and store the energy in the leyden jars until the voltage is high enough to make the spark, or in my case, to zap the schoolboy.

In a cloud, rising water droplets allegedly collide with falling ice particles and lead to charge separation. In our weapon system, we will use billions of tiny particles instead of nature’s water droplets and ice crystals. Our little particles have sails, and they can tack in different directions within the storm. They know which direction they are going because we have a local positioning system for them. As they pass, they collide with others coming the opposite way, and each builds up a positive or negative charge. Obviously we can make coatings on their sides to optimise that. The wind within the storm provides the energy. The particles hold the charge on their capacitor plates. When they haveĀ built up lots of charge, it can be released in any particular direction on demand along with charge from their colleagues, all aligned in a line to the enemy. They don’t have to touch, just get close enough for the sparks to work, and a huge spark from all the charge from lots of particles can be released into any particular enemy combatant, or piece of sensitive electrical equipment if you prefer. So we need some low altitude particles or drones with imaging equipment to identify combatants, and some sort of ID system to make sure they don’t attack our guys. There are rather a lot of particles so we can arrange to attack lots of them at once, limited only by the energy available in our storm.

This energy harvesting could also be used to power or combat drones too, which can carry other equipment such as lasers, tasers, plasma rifles or whatever. I describe my free-floating combat drone army in:


It would be hard to disable the small particles, so they would make for quite a resilient weapon, albeit one that can only be used in a storm. Together with combat drones that can self repair and are virtually indestructible, this would make a pretty powerful weapon system. Perfect for a super-villain in a sci-fi story, but feasible enough to be used in real life in a few decades from now.