If you’re like me, for decades you’e heard stories about Nikola Tesla developing a technology for generating electricity from the earth’s electromagnetic field. You probably think it’s an urban legend, or that it requires sophisticated equipment and skills.
It’s not an urban legend, and it’s really simple to make. Here’s how it works:
Take a sheet of aluminum foil, and equally sized sheet of paper. Bond them together with tape or pritt glue stick, or whatever you have, so that you now have a sheet that is aluminum foil on one side, and paper on the other. Make sure the foil side is facing upwards.
Attach a wire to one edge of the foil. Attach one of the wore or contacts from of a light bulb or led from a flashlight to the other end. Attach another wire to the other contact, and attach the other end of that wire to grounded metal object. After a second or so, the light should come on.
This works best if you can place the foil sheet outdoors. It may not work if your roof or ceiling contain metal. It doesn’t produce a lot of juice, but you should be able to see around the room by the light does produce.
Forget about powering your house this way; the city of New York uses 9 GW/Hr, the earth generates a piddling 750 MW/Hr. But it does come in hand y in an emergency. Say “Thank you Nicky!”
UPDATE: It just occurred to me that knowing how to make one of these is sort of the 21st century equivalent of knowing how to make a fire with two sticks.
UPDATE 2: For the technically inclined, or truly desperate, here’s a simple pin-out chart for modifying an iphone or ipad charger. You can use this to wire up your phone to the tesla generator. I’ll post a ‘droid how-to as soon as I can find one. Here’s the link.
UPDATE 3: If you’re not getting enough current, you can get more by increasing the surface area of the generator. You can do this by using more aluminum foil and more paper to make a wider or longer generator. Thicker guage wire will get you better results than thinner. The quality of your ground will also have an effect. A good ground is a copper pipe several feet into the earth. A drain pipe or a cold water line are the best. A fire escape may work, if you can attach the ground to bare metal. Paint will act as an insulator and prevent current from flowing.
UPDATE 4: If you want the generator to be a bit less flimsy, or in the case really BIG ones (like, say, 4’ X 4’, which is pretty big), you can use cardboard instead of paper for the backing. This will make it nice and stiff, and easy to secure to say a porch, or fire escape.
UPDATE 5: What exactly is a “grounded metal object”? A proper ground in a piece of steel, iron, copper, or aluminum that is stuck into the soil, a building’s foundation, or whatever passes for the ground under foot where you are (sand, lava, stone, whatever) and extends into the earth at least a couple of feet. A laboratory-quality ground is usually a piece of 8 gauge steel rod clad in copper hammer 8’ into the ground, and the ground lead for the electrical system connects to that. For more mundane purposes (like our generator) any piece of metal embedded a foot or two down will do. A cold water pipe made of copper or steel works very nicely.