# Is it possible or has anyone explored the possibility of capturing static electricity for supplying electrical loads on an aircraft?

I am wondering if it's possible to harness static electricity generated on the skin of the aircraft to supply power for system loads? Has anyone ever undertaken a project to achieve this?

One reason the question came to mind is that all aircraft I've ever seen have static dischargers for the purpose of dissipating it.

• – mins
Jan 21, 2017 at 22:27
• @mins, hm, interesting. Does it say how much energy it can actually collect? Normally the potentials are large, because air is pretty good insulator, but I wouldn't expect the charge to be enough for anything useful. Jan 21, 2017 at 22:38
• @JanHudec: These applications are to charge small capacitors, likely to then power small wireless devices. The amount of static electricity will depends on many factors, but is very small. Also if the aircraft is seen as a generator of current electricity, its internal resistivity is very high and as soon as current is flowing the very high potential falls near zero volts. I've posted a link to a study below your answer. From it: "The typical charging rate of a B-17 flying at 200 mph in snow was 100-155 μA", that is half a coulomb per hour.
– mins
Jan 21, 2017 at 22:57

No, it is not.

To use electricity to do work, you need:

• two thigns with stable potential difference,
• large amount of charge and
• good electrical connection to both terminals

And static electricity does not really give you either:

• the amount of static electricity collected depends significantly on atmospheric conditions,
• the total charge collected is tiny even though the potential increase can be huge and
• one of the terminals is outside air and the electrical connection to it is really poor (if it wasn't, charge couldn't accumulate on the plane).
• @RyanBurnette, there is slight problem that I don't really know typical numbers. But it is pretty similar to static electricity you encounter at home: even tiny spark requires thousands of volts to happen and you can easily collect that on your sweater—but than that one tiny spark equalises the charge and there is nothing left to power anything. Jan 21, 2017 at 21:55
• That clears up my question. Thank you. Jan 21, 2017 at 22:31
• Some information about the charging amount A Critical Review of Precipitation Static Research since the 1930's
– mins
Jan 21, 2017 at 22:45