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Graphene rods to harness lightning

Life mirrors Back to The Future in the Times, where Sandy Chen has a dream. First you build a massive graphene lightning rod that reaches miles into the skies. Then you harness nature’s explosion.

Nothing all that new in the idea. And why it’s in the paper is unclear. The story reads a little like an advert for Chen’s company – and likening him to Elon Musk, the PayPal billionaire who has a dream for electric transport, is ambitious. But that’s not to say lightning power is uninteresting:

Of course, harnessing the power of an H-bomb is easier said than done, and scientists have been scratching their heads for decades over the conundrum of capturing and storing the five billion joules of energy that a bolt can transmit to Earth in a matter of microseconds. Chen admits that “it is really farfetched, but if we can develop it, that would just be pretty cool”.

It’s hot:

In the UK we experience relatively few thunderstorms each year: in England thunder occurs on average 11 days per year, with even fewer in Scotland and Wales. Even during a thunderstorm it’s incredibly difficult to predict when and where lightning will strike.

Assuming that you are lucky and get a lightning bolt to hit your conductor, there would be major difficulties in storing the energy and then converting it to alternating current so it can run your appliances. In addition, any solution to these problems would need to be able to withstand the enormous surges in energy generated by each strike.

Finally, much of the lightning bolt’s energy goes into heating the surrounding air to temperatures greater than the surface of the Sun. So even if you managed to overcome the problems of collecting, storing and converting the energy from the lightning to make it useful, you would still only be harnessing a small proportion of the lightning bolt’s power.

Good idea.


Posted: 1st, November 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0

George Osborne’s £50m grant for better condoms

The team behind the wonder material graphene – developed at the University of Manchester in 2004 – has just got a big new commission: making condoms.

Graphene is strong, light, nearly transparent, and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, qualities that have got it dubbed a supermaterial and tipped for use in airplane wings, internet cables and foldable computers. Chancellor George Osborne is a vocal fan, putting £50m into the department making it in 2011 and trumpeting the superthin layers of carbon as a bright new hope for British industry.

But that’s not all graphene is good for … some of the team working on it at Manchester have just landed a deal to make condoms out of it. 

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Posted: 20th, November 2013 | In: Technology | Comment | Comments RSS feed:RSS 2.0