Energy from the Moon - A Version of Tidal Energy Collection

Artificial tides, a Moon-based Source of Energy?

A method of having the Moon create artificial tides, for energy harvesting.

  • We have known for thousands of years that the Moon causes and creates spectacular amounts of energy that exist in the Oceans' Tides (every day). We know that this is due to some gravitational effects of the Moon on the Earth and on the waters of the oceans. In other words, IF we could just figure out HOW to collect some of the effects of the Moon, we might easily collect enough energy to power modern civilization! This presentation is an example of one (of many) possible approaches we might try. If done effectively and efficiently, we probably could harvest spectacular amounts of energy which exists due to the Moon's existence orbiting our planet.

  • This is presented here as a LESSON regarding alternative energy production and usage, but it happens to be a perfectly valid new method of creating energy for the production of electricity and other purposes.
  • The concept is extremely simple and even obvious, and so I have been amazed that hundreds of people have not told me they thought of it! But unfortunately, even though it certainly WORKS, the matter of being practical is a different matter!
  • You know that the Moon causes tides in the world's oceans. Actually, in the land as well, but to a smaller effect. The REASON that the Moon causes tides is actually very simple. Imagine that you are an adult man who weighs exactly 200.0 pounds (where there is no Moon, exclusively due to the mass of the Earth attracting you downward (Newton, gravitation, all that stuff). [You might look at our Tides presentation for the math.] Now say that the Moon was directly over your head. Separate from the attraction of the Earth, the Moon also gravitationally attracts you to it, now exactly straight upward! The Moon is much less massive than the Earth and much farther away. The Tides presentation gives the math to show that it causes a LIFTING EFFECT on you by about one part in 8,700,000! (That is accurate only when the Moon is at its average distance from us [it varies due to an elliptical orbit] and we are also ignoring the [smaller] contribution of tides due to the gravitation of the Sun).
  • So you actually weight LESS when the Moon is overhead than six hours earlier or later when it is on the horizon! But not much! Your scale would show you lighter by about 1/2500 ounce (or 0.01 gram), way too small an amount for your bathroom scale to show!
  • So now say that you have a decent sized swimming pool (30,000 gallons of water) BUT you support it on top of a "sturdy one-inch-thick flattened balloon" of air underneath it.
  • Whenever the pool is heavier (as when human bodies have jumped into it) it becomes a little heavier than before, which slightly COMPRESSES the air in that balloon underneath it. Similarly, when the Moon passes overhead and makes the pool LIGHTER, the air in the balloon expands in volume because of the lower pressure and therefore it has greater volume (Ideal Gas Law) and therefore the balloon gets a tiny bit taller.
  • The entire swimming pool gets LIFTED UP on that air cushion, due to the Moon going overhead, essentially identical to the way that ocean tides exist.
  • So you let the weight of the pool drop back down, and capture that Potential Energy and convert it into electricity or whatever!

  • What is wrong with this picture?

This presentation was conceptualized around 1998, but only first placed on the Internet in March 2010.

Actually, NOTHING is wrong with it! It WILL WORK as described in the simple process above! Solution to all future power shortages? We should wish!

Just thinking up an idea like this only the first step. NOW it is necessary to do some math to see if it is actually practical or not. It turns out that the vast majority of "good ideas" are not actually practical! And we will see in the math that there are very big difficulties in this one!

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Using the info given above, we have 30,000 gallons of water in the pool. This is about 250,000 pounds of water. (density of water, weight).

Our pool has a footprint of 40 feet by 20 feet, or 800 square feet or 1,152,000 square inches. (area)

The air that was first put in the balloon had a natural air pressure of about 14.7 pounds per square inch. Our weight of water just increased that by about 0.2 PSI (weight divided by area, or 250,000 / 1,152,00 or about 0.2 PSI differential), so we now have the air pressure in the balloon at around 14.9 PSI. The one-inch thick balloon has now squeezed to about 14.7/14.9 or 0.988 inch, barely any change in thickness (because we have SUCH a large area of the pool bottom).

This is with NO Moon or the Moon on the horizon.

When the Moon is overhead, the entire pool weighs a little less, actually reduced by 250,000 pounds times 1/8,700,000 or 0.029 pound. In other words, the entire pool now weighs LESS, at 249,999.971 pounds!

Since the entire pool is now lighter, the increase in the air pressure in the balloon is less. We can calculate that the pressure decrease in the balloon is around one two-millionth of a PSI. When we divide this by the overall air pressure inside the balloon, we can see that the balloon's pressure changed by about one part in 40 million. That means that the height of the balloon changes by that same fraction, or about one forty-millionth of an inch!

Unfortunately, this tiny dimension is comparable to things inside an atom!

But continuing with our math, we now see that the Moon passing overhead has LIFTED around 250,000 pounds of water by about one forty-millionth of an inch! Multiplying, we then see that we now have some NEW POTENTIAL ENERGY, in an amount of about 1/160 inch-pound or 1/2200 foot-pound.

This is actually NEW Potential Energy, which did not exist six hours earlier! (It actually came from a really tiny change in the orbit of the Moon, where Energy is still Conserved!)

We created this new potential energy over a six hour period. Therefore we created this new energy at the rate of 1/2200 ft-lb / 21600 seconds, or about one fifty-millionth of a ft-lb/sec. In the Metric system, we have around 120,000 kg of water being raised 0.0000000006 meter in those 21600 seconds, which is about 1/30 of a microWatt!

A REALLY small amount of power or electricity!


The point of this lesson is that things that seem to be extremely promising, and are even certainly true, might not be PRACTICAL!

With the device as described above, you would need to build thirty million such swimming pools, just to create a total of ONE WATT of electrical power (from these artificial tides).

There ARE ways to improve this performance. If the air is in a very thick balloon and given a different starting pressure, the performance can be significantly better. If the pool is a thousand feet deep, ditto. But such devices have other problems that our technology cannot yet solve very well.


This presentation was first placed on the Internet in March 2010.




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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago