Some 200 years after Mary Shelley used lightning to breathe life into Frankenstein’s monster, scientists have copied her idea to power a phone.
The experiment was conducted at the University of Southampton in collaboration with Nokia. The mobile firm warned users “not to try this at home”.
Harnessing nature in this way could provide power sources where electricity is in short supply, said experts. Using a transformer, the team recreated a lightning bolt in the lab by passing 200,000 volts across a 30cm (12in) air gap. “We were amazed to see that the Nokia circuitry somehow stabilised the noisy signal, allowing the battery to be charged,” said Neil Palmer, from the University of Southampton’s high voltage laboratory.
The experiment is a step towards harnessing the energy from lightning. “This discovery proves devices can be charged with a current that passes through the air, and is a huge step towards understanding a natural power like lightning and harnessing its energy.”
Lightning is a discharge of static electricity that occurs when there is an imbalance in the electrical charge between a cloud and the earth’s surface.
“We obviously aren’t recommending people try this experiment at home, but we are always looking to disrupt and push the boundaries of technology,” said Chris Weber, executive vice-president for sales at Nokia.”Nokia has been among the forerunners of device-charging technology for some time. It’s also very committed to caring for the environment. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the company’s involved in what might appear to be a wacky idea.”
He thinks the concept might be useful in areas without reliable electricity.”If you live in a remote village in India you might welcome the possibility of a communal device that charges phones.”
to breathe life into (v.) /təˈbriːð ˈlaɪf ˈɪntuː/- to give life, to revive.
to power (v.) /tə ˈpæʊr/- to supply energy or electricity to a machine so it can work
to harness (v.) /tə ˈhɑrnəs/- to control something under some conditions so it can be used for a particular end or purpose. Example: to harness the energy of the sun (to create electricity)
lightning bolt (n.) /ˈlaɪtnɪŋ ˈboʊlt/- a flash of light in the sky, occurring during a thunderstorm and caused by a discharge of electricity
gap (n.) /gæp/- a hole, an empty space
circuitry (n.) /ˈs3ːkɪtrɪ/- the design of an electrical circuit or a system of circuits
device (n.) /dɪˈvaɪs/- a machine or tool, usually electrical e.g. mobile phones, TVs, computers, etc
current (n.) /ˈkʌrənt/- a flow of electricity
imbalance (n.) /ɪmˈbæləns/- lack of balance, equality or proportion
to disrupt (v.) /dɪsˈrʌpt/- to break
boundary (-ies) (n.) /ˈbaʊndərɪ -drɪ/ – the limit (s)
forerunner (n.) /ˈfɔːˌrʌnəʳ/ – a person or thing that precedes another or comes in advance; precursor
to be committed to something /tə ˈbiː kəˈmɪtɪd tə ˈsəmθɪŋ/- be fully engaged or involved in something; have promised to do something.
wacky (adj.) /ˈwækɪ/ – crazy and funny
reliable (adj.) /rɪˈlaɪəbl/ – something or someone that you can trust