Static Charger : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

I recently mentioned the subject of charging batteries with what is known as a static charger. This being over on the TB(2000) forum.

I would have answeared the requests for me to futher describe the methods and principal of building a Static (Cap.) Charger in the TB(2000) forum. But I was lothed to put up with the antics of some of the Pollies, and I wanted the information to be presented to those who might like to know how to generate electricty with out fuel or moving parts.

Being an old shirt tailed electrican, and having a lifelong interest in things dealing with electricty. Last year I was reading the description of how a pre-teen kid charged up batteries back in the Great Depression so that he could have power for his radio.

This is essentially his description, He took a long piece of insulted cable (the size of the copper sheathed wire didn't seem to be important, just it's lenth. And stringing this insulated wire through the trees, over to the wind mill and back (so that the wind could blow across the wire). He put a spark plug on the end of the wire, then put a model "T" coil in line (the wire from the grounded (bottom threaded side of the spark plug i.e. the part that screws into the motor block). This wire he ran to the Model "T" coil and then took another wire( from the post that connected to the points on the dist.) from the coil to the plus side of the battery.

The next step was to take a wire from the negative side of the battery to a good earth ground. The last step was to take another wire from a good earth ground back up to the top side of the charging spark plug (this wire is to have a small cap. in line, say a 1-3kv....This cap. can be found in most all old TV sets).

OK! Now this was the basic bare bones hook up...The lenth of the wire is what makes it really get up and chatter. In the original theory 200 feet of isulated would charge up a single battery in a day or so, and at 1000 feet the voltage could reach deadly levels. (The author's words...and I believe him).

The principal of an ungrounded lenth of electrical line (or antenna cable) picking up an static electrical charge to deadly levels is well known by both Ham Operators and Line Men. But the amps are just marginally there for example...You might easily build up to seveal thousands of volts, but have just barely a reading on the amps.

At several thousands of volts, the static charger is a curosity...But put the stepdown transformer (the car's coil) in line and you have a useful piece of equipment. For you bring down the several thousands of volts to just a few hundred, and bring up the amps to a useful level..(Wa La) you now have a primitve Static Charger! One which can be built any where and the materials are all around you....The cable can be eletrical wire, TV cable, Bell wire (remember the size wire does not make a difference, it is the lenth of the wire that matters.... And the stormer, wetter, colder and the more the wind blows. The more this little gem puts out (nuclear winter any one).


Being a curious sort, and having some little experience at electrical power generation.I started to experiment with the primitive method, to see if I could improve upon the output with out having to string wire all over creation to do it.

Since the thing operates on the amount of insulated wire exposed to the wind, and not the distance it is being ran.I substitute plastic covered chicken wire for the single strand of wire...In this way I would have approximatelly 40' of wire exposed to the wind for every running foot of wire used (using 2' wide chicken wire).

My test bed comrised a 30' section of wire (which nearly killed me when I thoughtlessly touched it after putting it up and leaving it in an ungrounded condition while I went to town for a couple of hours.) I still have the bitter taste of copper in my mouth (memory wise).

This setup worked/works fine... But still I was not satisfied. There are people who need meds which have to be kept cold and this means a large battery bank with 120V inverters.

So I went to work, the charging screen looks like a volley ball net (s) only it is about 12'18' from the bottom of the nets to the ground. The nets are 2' wide insulated (plastic covered type) chicken wire.

There are two ceramic insulators on each pole to fasten the nets to...the nets are to be at least 2' from the pole it's self.

The ceramic insulators are of the beer bottle color type with a wood lag screw in the ear and a hole through the middle of them...these insulators can be found on any old house where the electrical line runs from the pole to the house, then down to the meter...The ceramic insulator is what the electrical wire is mounted off to as it gets close to the house. ( I am trying to relate this to you in the most lay man like manner that I can here).

Now to my design...

Basically it is this a "Y" in shape, looking down at the poles' arrangiment from over head. OK..There are four poles in this arrangement, lets make the one in the center a heavy duty plastic (PVC) pipe, the others are of wood.

You can. of course see where you can put up three screens (to make it look like a true "Y" when looking down on it from above, But notice you can also add three more screens to the out side poles connecting them togeather, for a total of 6 screens. In this arrangement, no matter from which direction the wind blows from, there at at the minium of five screens exposed to the wind at all times.

On one, the first of these designs put up, the man made the inside screens 20' long, the out side screens 26' long (which works out to better than 8000 feet of exposed wire) So far, he is running a 10 deep cycle battery setup with it. And complains that he has had to set up a way to disconnect the out side screens when a storm blows up. Plus he had to put a car's voltage regulator between the coil and the battery(s)..He boiled his first set of batteries when a storm came up while he was away from home.

Now...the why of the heavy PVC pole in the center, static electricty by it's hi voltage nature, does not see insulation (it will go right through a wire's insulation, at the levels this set up produces) and it will see wood as a current path, which means you would loose some of the charge if you ran your charging wire off the net(s) down a wooden pole...So we use a PVC pole in the center. Put you spark plug and car's coils in as fast in line as you can after connecting to the nets. The white noise can be stopped by mounting ...say, an old ammo can to the pole at or near the bottom of the charging nets. drill two holes in the can, one for bringing in the charging wire to the charging spark plug, which is hanging freely inside the can, then coming off the grounding side of the spark plug, the threaded part,out the second hole to the car's coil.

Lastly, take a wire and ground off the case of the ammo can to a good earth electrical ground,(you have just made a faraday cage).

Well folks, there she are...I do not need the full monty, as I intend to be way out in my RV. So I have a single screen rolled up with a couple of EMT poles (electrical matalic tubing) my nessary ceramic insulators, and a 6 battery bank for the RV, that's way more than enough to run my 12V color TV and 12V VP and the little lighting I need..


-- Shakey (in_a_bunker@forty.feet), November 06, 1999


Sorry, but the logic here is shakey.

Al k

-- Al K. Lloyd (, November 06, 1999.

Hi Shakey,

Wow. Are you serious -- this really works???

I'm sure going to try a small version of this (if I can find some insulated chicken wire -- I have plenty of the uninsulated stuff).

Don't you need some kind of insulator where the wire from the screens goes through the can? I'd think you could get arcing there.

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (, November 06, 1999.

the screens, all six of them are connected togeather with 10# thw or it's equalivent (that is insulated electrical wire) The tap coming down for the charging spark plug has to be of isulated electrial wiring also, I used 10# stranded thhn with a crimp on ring for the charging plug,the nets tie off to the top side ot the spark plug.

And in answear to the other poster...Sir I have given this information free gratis, Now you may believe or not, this is your perogative. But as for your skeptism remark and the way you framed it, well I'll wash off a place on my anatomy you can kiss..


-- Shakey (in_a_bunker@forty.feet), November 06, 1999.

It has occured to me that I have left out a description of how or what takes place when the charging occurs...

When the net(s) build up enough of a charge, a spark will jump across the points of the spark plug. And each time an excessive amount of charge builds up the spark plug will spark again...Thusly you are in actuality squirting a charge to the battery bank.

-- Shakey (in_a_bunker@forty.feet), November 06, 1999.

Shakey in a Bunker,

Could you describe what you are using for a "coil." Where these days could one find a Model T Ford spark gap coil (outside of a museum)?

Are you using some type of homemade device to serve this function?

-- Not Whistlin' Dixie (, November 06, 1999.

Shakey in a Bunker,

Could you describe your step-down transformer? Off-the_shelf? Homemade?

-- Not Whistlin' Dixie (, November 06, 1999.

You said, " (The author's words...and I believe him)." Who is the author? Author of a book or at a website?

I must be missing something here. The idea if I follow is to take a static discharge, run through a stepdown to pulse (during spark in the spark gap) charge the battery. Don't we need a recitifier in the secondary side here so we're not sending AC to the battery?

-- Ken Seger (, November 06, 1999.

The stepdown transformer is an 12 volt coil from a car's igntion system. Go out to a junk yard and get a couple out of a 70's or 80's car or pick up...remember, the wire going to the points is the one which will go to the battery's plus side post (and it might be wise to get a 12 volt voltage from the same car/pick up while you are at it..).


-- Shakey (in_a_bunker@forty.feet), November 06, 1999.

Thanks, Shakey.

Going coil-shopping next week. I'm going to try to build one of these & will post results.

-- Not Whistlin' Dixie (, November 06, 1999.

Hi All,

I heard about this kind of device a long time ago (30+ years) but didn't try it then.

The situation being what it is -- I think I'll try it now. :)

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (, November 07, 1999.

Some time ago I read of a flight control system (for drones, if I recall correctly) that measured the voltage differential between the two wing tips. When it was 0, the plane was flying with both wings level. Apparently, there is a very high voltage potential in the air, even *without* wind, and it increases dramatically as you increase in altitude.

Rather than using a spark gap as an interruptor, I bet you could use the high voltage to load a large storage capacitor, and use some high- voltage transistors to construct an oscillator to drive the step-down transformer. Should be a lot more efficient. Sort of a reverse- design to a strobe charging circuit.

-- Ron Schwarz (, November 08, 1999.

The method of charging is known as tribolectric (frictional) charging, and people may remember the highschool experiments where you rubbed a silk cloth with an amber or plastic rod. In this case the friction is between the air and the wiring.

Existing US safety regulations for the cell-phone industry have a test for this -- for external antenna's you have to apply ESD impulses to ensure that the voltage will not degrade the insulation way back in the power supply for the unit.

The system is accumulating charge on a capacitor at a very high voltage. When the spark gap in the spark plug arcs over, the current flowing in the ignition coil will generate a magnetic field. Now, energy can be extracted from that field on the other side of the transformer, which is standard tranformer action. Shakey's description about "squirting" charge to the battery is a nice description - pulse charges.

Increased leakage will happen during damp weather- meaning it won't work as well. Nice part of it operating both at night and during dry winter conditions when sunlight not prevalent.

Two other comments for what they're worth: if you are going to go with some sort of high voltage transistors you are going to be pressed to find some that go up high enough, plus be vulnerable to repair issues, whereas a spark gap is a common and easily tweakable element. As far as the drone airplane system -- it seems to me that that was based on the space charge between ground and sky, about 300 Volts/meter which I understand to be set up between the ionosphere and the "ground' due to lightning discharges, and not a friction charging effect (which you would have a lot of when the air sweeps over the wings).


-- Tom Stein (, November 08, 1999.

Tom: WRT charging a capacitor, IIRC the capacitor will gradually come up in voltage as it charges, until it either gets discharged by an something external (i.e., a xenon tube, a screwdriver or finger across the terminals (don't ask me[g]), or, it self-discharges via dielectric breakdown.

Apart from conversion efficiencies, there's one other major problem with using a spark gap as your interrupter: you'll be creating a *very* broadband transmitter, which will "get out" nicely by virtue of being well-grounded and having a nice antenna. You'll be zapping everything from below AM BC band to above TV and comm bands. Every RFI victim with a direction finder will be converging on you in short order.

As to the flight control system I mentioned, while I don't recall all of the specifics, I absolutely *do* recall it working by measuring differential *between* the wing tips. Tilt the plane to one side -- even by a little -- and there will be several volts difference between the wing tips.

As to foul weather operations of a static-gatherer, I can't say either way, but I have noticed that around here, we get some of our more dramatic lightning discharges during rainstorms. [g]

-- Ron Schwarz (, November 08, 1999.

Never stopped to consider the obvious fact that spark gap would generate radio interference. Last thing I want/need is people with direction finding equipment converging on my spot!

-- Not Whistlin' Dixie (, November 10, 1999.

And sirs to the question of generating a radio "white out" with the spark plug...In this you are correct. But let me point out that by using a metel box (earth grounded) as a faraday cage (enclosing the charging spark plug). You eliminate most if not all the danger of a radio finder being used to locate you and your static charger.


-- Shakey (in_a_buner@forty.feet), November 10, 1999.

Um, no, because the radiator -- the "antenna" -- will have to be outside the faraday cage.

*Every* transmitter is shielded, but they do tend to transmit! [g]

-- Ron Schwarz (, November 11, 1999.


You're quite right about the sparkgap transmitter...ouch. An alternative that might bear thinking about is related to your xenon tube discharge idea -- using a neon bulb in parallel with an EL lamp (those flat night-lights). The EL lamps are capacitors, about 5 nF in value. A relaxation oscillator circuit, with the EL lamp as the timing capacitor, and a neon that fires at about 150 V might work well to provide lighting -- it's all a function of how fast charge builds up on the wire "upstairs". Finally, there is a related patent which can be accessed for free at the US Patent Web page (you can search the archives and download the images for free these days) is as follows: Access the US Patent Office web search page at: In the search field type the following patent number: 4146800 It will yield you a view of a patent entitled: Apparatus and method of generating electricity from wind energy

and it has the following abstract (to whet your interest...the patent has a great teaching section)


The invention relates to apparatus for and method of generating electricity from wind energy. The apparatus comprises means such as a foraminous condenser plate and a condenser surface, e.g., the earth, for producing an electrostatic field in the open through which wind can blow, means such as needle points and balls or fine wires and cylinders capable of creating a corona discharge or equivalent ion or electron generator for producing charged particles to be entrained in and carried by the wind against the direction of movement imposed on the particles by the field, which results in an increase in the electric potential across the field, means such as a second foraminous plate or the earth for collecting the charged particles and means such as a high voltage power regulator and converter for making the increased potential available for utilization. The method comprises operations corresponding to the means, viz., producing an electrostatic field in the open through which wind can blow, generating charged particles to be entrained in and carried by the wind against the direction of movement imposed on the particles by the field, resulting in an increase of the charged particles and making the increased potential available for utilization.

Lots of explanatory material here on using the sort of setup that Shakey was alluding to, although they introduce the particles themselves.

Best regards, Tom

-- Tom Stein (, November 11, 1999.


It looks like the patent is from 1979, does anyone know if it's expired yet? I find it curious that no one developed it commercially. Could it be one of those annecdotal cases where "Big Energy" bought up the rights and buried them?

-- Ron Schwarz (, November 12, 1999.

A patent runs for 17 years (to my knowledge) and can be renewed once for an additional 17 years. I suspect that this system is not commercially viable in that while the cost to run is near zero (maintainance) the cost of the device/power output is worse than solar panels.

Back to my question? Transformers (spark coils) can not utilize nor output DC current, hence the need for the discharge gap, therefore the output is AC. You HAVE to have a rectifier between the secondary and the battery.

How about cutting out the middle man? Just use the electrostatic current to operate an electrostatic motor. In the 1970's two professors in Florida(?) came up with a motor that was a significant(!) improvement over Ben Franklin's "wagon wheel spokes and thimbles" creation. There was an article in Popular Science, Mechanics Illustrated, or one of those "project" magazines about it.

-- Ken Seger (, November 12, 1999.


Patents from that era only lasted for 17 years from date of issue. These days they last 20 years from date of filing.

Further, you are not prohibited from "experimenting" with an invention described in a patent -- part of the rationale for getting the description out there is to encourage people (industry) to build further. So - even if a patent is still in effect (and this one won't be) you can do all the fiddling you like on your own. You become a licensing target when you begin to try to manufacture in volume and/or sell it.

The patent archives are awash with both interesting inventions, and maybe more importantly, all kinds of teachings about the "art" area that the invention is working in. The patent is essentially a time limited monopoly the government grants in exchange for your teaching the community about your invention. As well, the inventor is justifying the "novelty" of his invention, and to do this, a lot of educational material is provided on alternate methods so as to let the patent examiner better see the novelty of the proposed invention.

The teachings are required to be "enabling" to a person working in that area - so usually the descriptions are pretty well worked out.

If you do start to search for similar items - look in the same classification category. These are buckets used to group similar invention types.

Another related patent worth looking up (to experiment with) is the one on recovering sulfated batteries (lead acid). The company with the fancy technology has a patent, and it describes how to do it. Sorry but the name escapes me for the nonce.

Regards, Tom

-- Tom Stein (, November 12, 1999.

This sounds really useful for y2K! Or for us who live in the country and often lose elec. during storms. I know nothing about wiring, circuits, etc. but would like to try to build one of these for my parents. Is there a drawing anywhere on line? Can someone detail it very simply with items that can be purchased / scrounged up today? Thanks heaps in advance.

-- Melvin (, November 13, 1999.

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