It’s important to blog this because I’ve been thinking about this problem for some time and in an effort to prevent others from claiming an idea as their own I’m putting my own ideas here.
Electrolysis of Water
Electricity can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using electrolysis. Well, pure water. For saltwater (brine) the products are chlorine and hydrogen.
If hydrogen could be collected it could be cleanly burned in a controlled manner to produce heat and electricity.
How could this possibly work? Perhaps have a grid of floating platforms out at sea with inverted cannisters underneath initially filled with seawater; half the cannisters would have electrical nodes in the cannisters that were “grounded” via a large external metallic grid, the other half would have electrical nodes in the cannister attached to a large tall metallic tower or antenna.
The theory being that electricity striking the antenna would quickly and near instantly force mass electrolysis to occur filling one set of containers of hydrogen gas.
Electrolysis of Seawater by Lightning
Which container would fill with hydrogen gas? The answer is “it depends”. Most cloud to surface lightning is a negative strike meaning a net flow of electrons are transferred from cloud to ground. That would mean the electrons flow into the cannister that is attached to the lightning rod/tower and that cannister would produce the hydrogen.
However occasionally (5% of strikes) a far more powerful positively charged strike occurs which would mean the hydrogen would be collected in the grounded cannister instead.
If this apparatus was hit by both negative and positive lightning a cannister could potentially fill with hydrogen and chlorine. If they combined they would produce HCl, or hydrochloric acid – a dangerous substance to humans.
So this proposal is not necessarily a good one. But it is, nonetheless, mine, and nobody may patent it. I thought of this idea at least ten years ago if not more.
Actual current flow, while substantial, is incredibly brief during a lightning strike. But it always leaves burn marks wherever it goes. The substances it flows through become incredibly hot – and air itself becomes so hot it expands faster than the speed of sound, creating a shockwave that forms the sound of thunder.
Perhaps that heat can be captured and stored for electricity generation.