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In my world (consider it an Earth analog for simplicity), power stations on the ground ionize columns of atmosphere using high-energy, electromagnetic beams. The plasma columns stretch all the way up into the upper stratosphere, connecting the power stations to the Earth's entire ionsophere. The power stations then apply an AC current to their ionized air columns, powering the ionosphere. With this sheath of energized plasma over the whole world, anyone can take something metal, connect it to a grounded resonant transformer, and power their electric devices.

My foremost question is: is this at all possible? (Note the reality-check tag.) If satisfied, then at what energies does it become unsafe for humans and life in general? The power stations themselves (you know, the ones projecting multi-kilometer tall columns of plasma) are likely dangerous to be in the vicinity of. I don't know how much energy it would take to maintain an effective plasma pathway like that, but it's likely astronomical. Because of that, assume that, when I say 'at what energies does it become unsafe', I mean situated in remote regions of the world, away from the power stations, and under the naked, charged ionosphere. By 'at what energies', know that I mean 'how much power can be pumped into the ionosphere before living things on Earth start dying as consequence'.


Disclaimer: Yes I know there are other options for power, geothermal, solar, wind, nuclear, coal, and so on; please don't suggest them to me. I am most certainly not under the impression that this is efficient or even practical. (Actually, I'm still ambivalent as to whether or not such a setup would even work, thus this question exists.) What I'm actually after is ambient, global, wireless energy for the reasons stated in the next paragraph, and if you have a better concept that satisfies those reasons then I'd love to hear it! :)

A little bit about my story, in case it's relevant: the civilization of my world needs to be inhibited. I don't want them producing integrated circuits or really small electrical devices. (When the air above you is ionized plasma, it's hard to make things not conduct the ambient electricity). However, I need big dumb machines like lightbulbs or large electric motors to work. I also need radio communications hindered, though not at all made impossible. Finally, the civilization of my world needs "unlimited energy" from the ambient environment, mostly anywhere in the world.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, the pigeons won’t like it for a start. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 3 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Did you do a google search on this first? There's an awful lot of content on this topic already out there. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 3 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ Please explain in detail how the scheme is supposed to work. In detail, because in general such proposed schemes are already known to be unworkable. For example, what does "the ionosphere is powered with AC current" mean exactly? (Personally, I would also like to see an explanation why would people use this extremely inefficient power transfer method instead of simply using wires. But this is not required to answer the question.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 3 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Beams ionize columns of the atmosphere, those columns connect to the ionosphere, and power is transferred through the conductive plasma of the ionized columns into the ionosphere. Obviously, this is hugely inefficient, but my story requires an ambient, global power tap. Microwave transmission is the next best thing that I can see, but microwave transmission has size drawbacks. $\endgroup$ – BMF Jul 3 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ In the moniker "BMF" does B stand for "Big"? $\endgroup$ – Willk Jul 3 at 18:00
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Nope... what you are proposing sounds like you are turning the entire sky into a giant Aurora. Not only are you wasting a huge amount of energy blasting plasma back into the air, the ionized gases will be highly reactive and dangerous to anything near it. You also don't have much in the terms of a containing field, so a light breeze is going to push all that hot plasma and dump it all over the surrounding lands.

Also, did I forget to mention your ENTIRE SKY is PLASMA. Highly reactive and ionized, powered by DEATH RADIATION ( high powered EM waves is basically X-RAY and GAMMA, the stuff you want to be in the other room for at the dentists ).

I propose you use a more simple solution that your average reader might understand. Using the magical element of Handwavium and a early learning science course, simply increase the power of the magnetic field of your World. Just make the Magnetic field powerful enough to power industrial hardware.

No hardware needed. Free power as long as your planet is alive. Impossibly hard to get to the source to determine how its actually generated. Common enough knowledge that people will sort of understand it.

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    $\begingroup$ We already have an entire sky of plasma, it's called the Ionosphere. The columns of ionization would be tapping into it and further ionizing it. By adding power, we'd be doing some more ionization to the Ionosphere, but we'd largely just be passing current through it because the plasmas are conductive. $\endgroup$ – BMF Jul 5 at 13:53

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