Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: electron perpetual motion?

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 06/05/2009
Q:
To my knowledge, Lightning is caused by large amounts of free electrons(from interactions of atoms in the clouds) neutralizing positive ions in the clouds, air, or earth. Would it be possible to create a device that takes free electrons from the air so as to ionize a piece of metal or other conductive material, and then send the electrons back out to the ions to become part of atoms again? My idea is that as electrons are taken from air particles, these particles will push or pull the object taking the electrons in a certain direction. Then the device would return the electrons back to the ions and continue the process with the new air around it, and it would perform this cycle multiple times so as to keep constant movement. Would this, or a varied method, work?
- George Albert Aguirre (age 15)
Flower Mound, TX, US
A:
No, the answer is very similar to the one for your question about a hydrogen-based perpetual motion machine. The energy obtained from the machine never is enough to drive the re-charger.

However, the weather patterns which set up lightning ultimately draw their energy from nuclear fusion in the Sun. So in principle you could get some of that energy out and let the Sun-driven weather re-charge the system. Of course someday the Sun will use up its nuclear fuel, so this also is not a perpetual motion machine.

Mike W.

(published on 06/05/2009)

Follow-up on this answer.