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.
This presentation was conceptualized around 1998, but only
first placed on the Internet in March 2010.
Conceptualized around 1998, on the Internet March 2010|
- 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?
Actually, NOTHING is wrong with it! It WILL WORK as described in the
simple process above! Solution to all future power shortages? We should
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!
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
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
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
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