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Static wicks and electric GA aircraft...

Sat May 28, 2022 2:59 pm

With the interest in developing electric GA and transport aircraft, I wonder if there is any research being done into modifying the static wicks on aircraft surfaces to allow that energy to be recaptured and recharge the batteries. I don't know how much charge accumulates on a surface during flight, but I've read that static wicks are certified to dissipate 0-200,000V of electricity. This technology might also be useful on planes like the 787 that use electric motors to power flight surfaces...especially in the case of engine failure.
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Re: Static wicks and electric GA aircraft...

Sat May 28, 2022 3:29 pm

It will not work.
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Re: Static wicks and electric GA aircraft...

Sat May 28, 2022 4:44 pm

People have pursued the notion of harnessing static electricity forever. It's not viable because although the accumulated charge can reach many thousands of volts, in terms of quantity the current flows for only milliseconds. If you spread that power product out over time, it amounts to very little. This is true even for lightning. The chief danger is the instantaneous power at the moment of release, but that energy has little practical use.

For example, we all know that spinning helicopter rotors develop a static charge that creates safety hazards for people working around them. But we also know that static power is a negligible fraction of the power developed by the engine to operate the helicopter.

Best to think of it as a slow & long accumulation phenomenon, but with extremely rapid release. Even if we found some way to capture the accumulation, it wouldn't be enough over time to be worthwhile.
Last edited by Avatar2go on Sat May 28, 2022 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Static wicks and electric GA aircraft...

Sat May 28, 2022 4:46 pm

If I lose an engine, I don’t think I’m gonna go looking for a thunderstorm to recharge the batteries

Seriously though, I don’t think static charge absent a lightning strike is going to amount to much, certainly not worth the weight of whatever equipment would be necessary to “capture” it. And in the event of a lightning strike I think you’d just be directing all that energy into damaging things versus dissipating it harmlessly.
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Re: Static wicks and electric GA aircraft...

Wed Jun 08, 2022 4:21 am

Umm I think you have the wrong concept for the static dischargers.

It's purpose is to control the rate of static dissipiated from the aircraft in a controller manner, so the it won't generate current which will interfere with radio and signals. That's why we have to perform check at maintenece to ensure each dischager has a low resistance from the structure to the base, but high resistance at the discharger itself. Having a uncontrollable current running around on the aircraft is something you really don't want.

Hence Static Discharger is listed in ATA chapter 23 - Communications.
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Re: Static wicks and electric GA aircraft...

Sun Jun 12, 2022 10:05 pm

As previous posters have replied, the very nature of atmospheric induced static electricity, including but not limited to lightning, is unpredictable. Had lightning been predictable or even containable, our electrical engineers would have developed means to capture it years ago. So inflight, given the electronics on modern aircraft, it is still vital to eliminate the random, unpredictable build-ups of static electricity. Hope that makes sense. Still, a great question!

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