Oftentimes in science fiction, we see or read about protagonists perpetually generating energy as if from thin air and using that unlimited energy supply to power their fanciful inventions and gadgets.
Compared to modern inventions, what once was reserved for science fiction novels has become possible, albeit in a way that’s less removed from the laws of thermodynamics.
The Study of Ions
Benjamin Franklin was one of the first scientists to discover the electrical nature of lightning, in what would come to be known as perhaps the first known experiment in atmospheric energy collection, when his famous kite in a storm experiment electrified a key in 1749.
Around 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, was working on a few projects when he discovered the differences in energies between atoms. This difference would come to be known as ionization energy.
When arranged properly in the periodic table, ionized energy increases the further to the right and further up you look on the chart.
As an electromagnetic theory, chemistry, and the natural sciences advanced over the decades, scientists soon came to understand how to manipulate ions. In the 1990s dozens of experiments were conducted and published in regards to the use of electromagnets or other devices in a process known as ionic manipulation.
The Manipulation of Ions
In 2011, ionic manipulation became less of a hypothetical and more of a plan. In fact, it became the plan for a company known as Ion Power Group.
Named NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Scientist/Engineer of the Year, Dr. Philip Metzger penned a groundbreaking technical report entitled “Analysis of the Economic Viability of Ion Power Generation,” forever marking this technology as a profitable and practical endeavor.
Today, ionic power generation is defined by its ability to pull naturally occuring, electrically charged ions from out of the atmosphere in a clean and renewable way that is not only safe for the engineers but safe for the environment.
This energy burns so cleanly because all it does is remove the natural electrical charge from the world around the devices, meaning that it doesn’t change the air quality, pollute streams, or even put off radiation.
Atmospheric Power Generation in Pop Culture
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was perhaps one of the first examples of atmospheric power generation in literature; however, it is most likely the case that she had absolutely no idea that that’s what she was depicting.
To Shelley, the lightning bolt was a symbol of religion. To Dr. Frankenstein, it was the first successful use of ionic manipulation to power a research lab.
The same sort of technology was used in the Back to the Future series to power the delorean. Once the atmosphere had ionized enough to be manipulated, the protagonists would drive through the storm and flash into another point in time.
There is much left to learn, many articles left to write, and countless more hours to spend in the lab before anybody creates the first commercially viable ionized power generation grid. However, when they do, they will quite likely become overnight billionaires.
For a more in-depth explanation of the mathematics and chemistry behind the concept of ionization energy, click here.