WindTapper's Journal - Grassroots Green Energy Projects

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WindTapper's Blog

March 2014

More Reading

I started reading Static Elimination by Horvath et al last evening. Whew! Static can even be created by cutting a log!

I had thought originally, that static elimination was exactly what I was trying not to do, but it turns out that -- besides needing to know about dangers that can be created by static electricity -- the control of static is exactly what I want to do, if I am going to build a safe and robust electricity generator using static.

Gardening and Spring cleaning are distracting me right now from actually working on this engineering project out in our yard. Oh yes. Rain puts a crimp in measuring static, too, lol. After today, though, the weather forecasts say no rain for 4 or 5 days....

Oh yes. After we get our taxes done I will be switching over to a new computer, so next week we could be incommunicado for at least a few days. I will even be delisting all my books on Amazon during that time, but all of this is only temporary. Heck. Everybody deserves a vacation once in a while!

Meanwhile, if you haven't already done so, check out all the links up the left side of this computer page, and categories down on the left for this blog.

Whirligig Progress

I rehung the old, largest whirligig onto the swing-set frame. Then, yesterday, as the weather warmed up a bit and I was taking a break from doing taxes in the afternoon, I got a chance to work on the :test facility" for the static electricity generator's infrastructure.

An old wooden, long step that I was not using provided some leveling for the hillside where the whirligig is anchored. Then two very inexpensive, plastic sawhorses -- one on either side -- tied to the swing-set frame with some very heavy-duty, outside chord to pieces don't go flying 'round the neighborhood in high winds.

Yesterday one cat chased the other one right through the anchor-leader and brought the whirligig down, but it went back up easily enough. Oh yes. I also added hefty packing tape to the upper and lower hooks in order to start isolating the gig from ground.

I also had purchased several sets of key-ring static zappers. I had decided to purchase those before starting to generate static on purpose, for safety's sake, as well as for detecting static charges. These dischargers might light up when static is drained off of something.

As I am busy with taxes, job prospects, spring cleaning, housework, and trying to figure out the computer's upcoming situation, entries to this blog will continue to be "catch as catch can" for the foreseeable future.

Possible Disruption

Perhaps "The Perfect Storm" is brewing in the U.S. We have U.S. taxes due by April 15th, but Microsoft Windows is ending support for certain operating systems April 8th. The new Windows requires new hardware. So, in the middle of preparing taxes, people might have to install a new computer system.

Who knows what the availability of all those new machines will be on each day before taxes are due? Who knows how much time we will have to spend learning the new system? How many people are already going to be tearing their hair out, trying to navigate through the "spaghetti code" that the tax system sends us through, when the extra burden of shopping for, obtaining, paying for, learning, and then implementing the new computer systems will also being occurring?

Woe are us.

Dear Diary

I applied for a job today. Hope springs eternal. They told me that if I don't hear from them in two weeks I should call them. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

My friend has cancer. A doctor quoted her "4-8 months." And here I had thought they were making such good progress fighting cancer. Apparently her family's brand of this deadly ailment has not yet been vanquished. Perhaps the next concoction of chemicals will do the trick.

I continue to slog through Elements of Static Electricity before sleep each night. And during the day, when I am not doing dishes, tending the garden, vacuuming, or applying for jobs, I take a few breaks to stare at and ponder how to design my next whirligig to produce electricity.

Yesterday our cats were out in the yard running around and pondering whether or not they might climb up the whirligig. Once a squirrel climbed a gig, but did no damage because squirrels weigh next to nothing. But cats are heavier.

I consider at times putting a central barrier on the ground at center to protect the central wire, but that would give the cats a place to climb onto to get higher, to bat at the turbine blades. A couple days ago I wondered if I should worry about static electricity zapping a cat, but then I remembered how farmers use electrified fences to keep their cows inside their allotted fields. I just need to keep any exposed surfaces from having more than micro-amps of current. Perhaps a jolt would warn the cats away....

Chapter 1 Atkinson

The most salient information I derived from Chapter 1 of Atkinson's Elements of Static Electricity is that you can't build up a charge on something if it is not insulated -- against ground, and materials having the opposite charge. So this makes clearer to me why the old term dielectric constant is so meaningful to both charge holding capacity and capacitors. High dielectric constant materials can be used to create high capacity capacitors.

By the way, I just hung up a wind turbine on the swing set frame that I set up a couple years ago. I can't display a picture, though, because our printer died and it had a port that transferred data from our camera. I have mislaid the original cord for that camera and it will take some time for me to locate it. Perhaps during Spring Cleaning it will turn up.

So anyway, I now have a whirligig spinning in the breeze, plus a relatively comfortable porch from which to observe it and plan ways to make it collect insulated charges. Let me count the ways that I can insulate parts of this contraption. At present it is thoroughly grounded, but I hope to set up electron and positive collection apparatuses of several types in order to compare their strengths.

Passive collectors will attempt to capture positive and negative elements from the air that naturally flows through the swing set. Friction or tribo-electric is the second type: caused by positive and negative fabrics hanging from the bottom of the whirligig and brushing against their like fabrics with collection wires built in to drain the "sticky" particles off to capacitors so the whirligig won't get bound up to the stopping point and so that the charge is collected before too much static builds up for safety. The third type to build is called inductive generators, and right now I forget how that works, lol. I have a Wiki article on that to re-read.

Directional diodes should send the capacitors' charges off to a storage tank such as a battery, after the charge gets high enough to overcome the battery's opposite pressure, I hope. I am probably going to find some Chilton manuals to double check the wiring diagrams for car batteries hooked up inside of cars. I assume they have something like Zener diodes, but I suppose I'll have to deal with the solenoid, too, at some point.

Current Reading Projects

After perusing Wiki's "Electrostatic Generators," "Induction Generators," "Relative Permittivity," and such, I am starting on a very reasonably priced reprint of an 1887 book, Elements of static electricity with full description of the Holtz and Topler machines and their mode of operating by Philip Atkinson. I am hoping it will help me to get more practice in thinking of charges, their control, and generation, besides their storage. Unfortunately, every other page has its inner margin cutting the lines of its text short by one or two letters, which is disconcerting. Also, several pages having pictures of apparatus on them were printed lighter than the rest, so that it is difficult to see the images there.

I am glad the book cost very little, lol. "Topler" has an umlaut over its "o" and I wonder if this means that when I see "Toepler" printed elsewhere (i.e. in Wiki), the two names are actually meant to be equivalent?

Some intriguing terms such as "current doubler" and "high current" in the context of static electricity generators (in Wiki) will keep me coming back to the Wiki as well as searching for these terms elsewhere. Although, I should merely doubly tap into condensers, to see if that would double current, lol.

Also, reading over "old" materials, I ran into a relative permittivity of 250,000 for calcium titanate trioxide, which is a wild fantasy of mine to use as an insulator after mixing some lime, titanium dioxide, and hydrogen peroxide together to paint onto the tank reservoir that will hold the charge...

Van de Graaff Generator Proposed Improvements

The Van de Graaff electrostatic machine is reported by Wiki to have been the most fruitful design, but it produced (in its original forms) only microamps in addition to kilovolts. From the schematic drawings provided by the Wiki entries it seems to me that the positive collector -- the hollow metal sphere -- would collect as much positive molecules as a set of swiveled condensers flying around a circle with an approximate radius of 15 inches, contacting an outside, lined circle of approximately 32 inches diameter. Of course the double rotation of the condensers is powered by the wind and by friction. The number of condensers possible is yet to be determined, probably varying by several factors such as weight, average wind speed, and varying friction factors of different materials.

The reason I expect to achieve a greater positive charge has to do with the fact that air is the most intrinsically positive compound on my list that has Teflon as most intrinsically negative. Perhaps lightening of storms is easily explained because air is positive compared to ground, and perhaps water is more often negative than air.

So, perhaps I only need to have two tanks of water, one that is insulated from the ground, the other connected to ground. The positive collector connects to the insulated tank which has a controlled connection to one side of a battery. The grounded tank needs a source of electrons in addition to ground -- perhaps the creek? -- and gets a controlled connection to the opposite side of the battery.

The controlling aspect for each tank is a Zener diode, probably.

Wiki Mining

This morning I found the mother load of terms in the Wikipedia for electrostatic generators and I have printed out approximately 50 pages of Wiki articles on static electricity generators, starting with the Wimshurst machine. The Kelvin water dropper is another device that interests me, and now I notice "Faraday's ice bucket," lol, which I had not seen earlier. "Electrostatic induction" apparently does not use friction to generate static electricity, and not using friction seems to me to be a step in the right direction.

Van de Graaff generator are a fourth group I will be studying again, this time around, too. I have my own ideas, but I have decided to bone up on the history of this line of energy production innovation, which dates back into the 1600's when it is not referring all the way back to amber's Greek connection to "electron."

Pages 37 and 38 of my printouts comprise the list of 71 categories that the Wiki has under "Electrical generators," and is where I found the intriguing term, "Induction generator."

Each of those 71 pages has an article which also has links to sub terms such as the "Leyden jar" which I also printed out, and sometimes points to a "Talk" tab where discussions/debates ensue regarding miscellaneous aspects of an article.

Then Wiki has sub categories, footnotes, cross reference links of categories, and external links associated with each and every article. Whew! Not to mention that when historical information is provided within the most general articles, many inventor/researcher names as well as their invention processes are described.

All this reading will take quite a while to accomplish, although there is no way I will cover all the footnotes or external links....

Needless to say, though, I expect many ideas to be inspired in me by this reading. I hope you will find it to be fruitful to read in Wiki, too.

Reading Again

I recently downloaded an E-book called Electricity and Magnetism either cheaply or for free, and I have been reading it of late. I feel I am supposed to be laughing at its quaint notion of the ether -- it is apparently antiquated, but I won't see the author and possibly the date of first publication until the end of this Kindle book because that's the way it is delivered.

Anyhoo, I can't quite get all riled up about the author's references to the ether because energy gets transmitted through the supposed vacuum of space constantly, in the form of photons -- light -- neutrinos, gamma rays, X-rays, and who knows what else. The author of this antiquated book tells of how electrical current -- although using the metaphoric language of liquid flowing -- is not actually a liquid. He tells of setting up bricks like dominoes where you knock over the first brick-domino and all the rest fall over, one-at-a-time, being how electrons actually move in electrical current. Electrons displace the electron in the atom adjacent to the one they are in, then this action is passed on to the next and the next quickly.

The net speed is not at light speed because we can see the delay in a lamp lighting up when it is plugged in. Some electrical devices have capacitors to fill up before they will turn on and the delay is greater there. Sometimes we can even see lightening crackling and growing in size and number of directions that it reaches when it is relatively small and nearby. Static electricity  is one easily reproducible example.

The author uses magnetic induction of current in a nearby wire as an example of ether carrying the mysterious force of magnetism to create electricity without contacting the nearby wire. The whole problem of "the ether" arises from the question of whether energy has mass. Light waves are deflected by gravity slightly, so photons must have some mass, but photons move so quickly that we wonder how they could have mass. I daresay that somethings such as photons in the universe compose enough of an ether for me.

Sorry. I got off on a tangent. Another remark made by this author concerns lightening rods. He says that if we could make the rods tall enough and close enough together, we could drain the sky and clouds of their potential differences from the earth and its occupants in terms of volts, so that we would not have violent discharges such as lightening.

What I am proposing in my static electricity electric current generator is very similar to this idea -- to constantly allow the excess charges to drain off so that they don't become large enough to spark and zap people, pets, etc. Perhaps using a metal screen, and the author says that steel requires seven times the voltage to make it travel inside it than if you were to use silver. OK. Excess voltage is what we are trying to get rid of.... It is the current that we want....

Harvesting Static?

By the way, I am approaching having read Electronics 101 by WAGmob, SimpleNeasy Kindle E-books, which is, perhaps, nothing to brag about, lol. But I have to believe that even Math teachers somehow benefit from teaching the basics, year after year, in my Pollyannaish heart of hearts.

My reading is mostly before bed, while cogitating on how to harvest static electricity to make a battery charger is something I do during the day, during breaktimes, or while doing some mindless housework. Doing it while driving a car is not recommended, so I try to discipline myself on that score, lol.

After half imagining oodles of combinations of materials and geometries, my current line of reasoning brings me to hanging handmade, large capacitors from the lowest ring of a rotating, wind powered, set of stacked turbine rings. The capacitors would rub and rotate against the inside of a cement housing lined with appropriate material(s).

Lately I've been considering a used car tire, instead of cement, but with the lower side removed to keep mosquitoes at bay, having no idea how feasible removing the sides of a car tire is, mind you. Steel belted radial tires present another possibility that I could riff off of, in that a magnet placed inside the spinning and rotating condensers would increase the friction, slightly, between condensers and inner lining of the housing, thus creating more static, but perhaps too much heat or drag. A tad more electric charge would be produced, too.

How to get the opposite charge to grow INSIDE the capacitor is my newest challenge. Either start with intrinsically oppositely charged material inside, or try to split the materials of condensers and lining vertically, so that both positive and negative charges are picked up simultaneously. But that seems too tricky since wind speed varies, giving the possibility of raising and lowering altitudes of the points of contact between the rotating and spinning condensers and the inner lining of the housing.

The geometry of raising and lowering due to centrifugal forces versus the inner lining of the housing and the shape of the condensers is another tricky wicket....

I find myself also tempted to design non-rotating brushes, where the condenser rotates but the pick-up of the static charge occurs at stationary locations built into the housing lining.

Another problem is that air is most positive, while the housing precludes having free air flow, so, it would seem to call for two separate charge generators within the same wind turbine set-up. The one that uses mostly air would have to deal with precipitation somehow.

I will need to find out how the charges of salt, calcium, distilled, and rain water, not to mention hydrogen peroxide water, all compare to each other, etc.

And, by the way, my former ideas about dielectric constant and holding a charge were erroneous. I was imagining that the high dielectric constant materials themselves were storing charges as in batteries. Rather, they provide insulation between charged materials so that capacitance is increased. Which, admittedly, is a way of storing charges, just not in the same way as I had imagined.

A Taste for Smelt

This was written 2/21/14 but got lost in the website, temporarily.

Fixing Mackerel for the cats this morning, I got a taste for smelt. I remembered the tales my mother told me of her time as a foster kid up in Traverse City Michigan. That's a place I saw on the weather map today, too, for the snow blowing across that region of our continent.

Googling "smelt harvesting" I found some pictures to show my husband from the tale my mother told of harvesting smelt by going down to the shore with buckets. Those were some of the first pix to show up on Google images. One black-and-white photo of what looks to be either a lifeboat -- but it seems to be more the size of a tugboat -- with smelt jumping and filling the entire deck!

It turns out that smelt live by Alaska, Maine, and in the Great Lakes. One story tells of how stocking the Lakes with trout cuts down on the population of smelt. One chart shows peaks of smelt harvest in the 100s of thousands of lbs for 1939, 1959, and 1992. Perhaps my mother lived in Traverse City in 1939. I suppose she would have been around 7 years old then.

So, I ate some Mackerel. Now my breath smells like Mackerel and the cats won't accuse me of having something better to eat when I breathe on them, lol.

On the Kindle reading front I got up to the 96% mark, in the middle of the Glossary section at the end of Electrical Engineering 101, SimpleNeasy Edition.  Some of the generator section allowed how "stator" means stationary section and "rotor" means rotating section of the generator, plus some coils don't rotate, while the magnet rotates inside an electric motor, spun by AC electromagnetism.

Dear Diary

Reading and rereading my two ebooks: Electrical Engineering 101 and Electronics 101 has kept me occupied before sleep each night. I am back into the mode of modeling semiconductor transistors now on a macro scale, besides seriously studying diodes for controlling directions of electron flows as well as voltages. However, the Zener diode seems to control current when voltage is constant, which is not exactly what I need when I try to control static electricity discharges. I suppose the Schotky diode makes more sense.

Our weather is dominated by winter storm Titan these days. We got at least an inch of frozen little balls, then a few inches of snow, then relatively super frigid temps. I suspended book sales on Amazon until I can be sure to be able to get to the Post Office to mail any books to buyers.

Mardi Gras brought some wonderful food except that I am allergic to onions, so I've been in the doldrums these last couple of days until the effects of the onions wear off.

I went back into KNDI and bought a related stock HPJ because both are involved in electric cars in China. I had taken profits on TESLA, you see, when it moved from $58 to $75. Now it has doubled again. HPJ I recently purchased at around $5 and it appears to be a "turnaround" stock, to boot. They make batteries for electric cars, I think and hope....

Spring cleaning is inching along, but I am encouraged by what little progress that I have made so far. I keep reminding myself that when the weather gets warm enough to paint, I want to have the time to do that, after planting seasons.

The final bit of tax info arrived today, so now I have a chance at getting that chore out of the way. Still, I need to get back to the shower rebuild project, too. All-in-all I have lots to do on these dreary winter days.

Oh yes. I am still trying to find a way to put an inexpensive roof over our back porch -- one that lets in light. The cheapest option is to go back to the Chinese greenhouse, once the snow has melted off the framework and porch.

Anyway, I got the workshop area mostly cleaned up today. Hooray! This was in preparation for using the open area to do exercises for losing weight, btw.

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