Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor

Huang, Po-Huang Adam

Reader

Roe, Larry A.

Abstract

The Earth is daily bombarded with cosmic radiation which delivers ions to the atmosphere and creates new ions via the collision of the incoming particles with the atmospheric particles, stripping them of electrons. Generally, this process results in a positively charged atmosphere and a negatively charged surface of the Earth. This process causes an electrical current which flows throughout the atmosphere and into the Earth's surface and comprises a system referred to as "the global atmospheric electrical circuit." This electrical current is very small at the surface of the Earth, on the order of 161'-12 amperes per square meter. The voltage potential difference between the surface and the atmosphere increases with altitude, with an approximate potential difference of +250 kilo- Volts between the ionosphere and Earth's surface. Using high-altitude balloons, the possibility of extracting usable amounts of energy from the electric energy present in the atmosphere at extreme altitude is to be investigated.

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