Obayagbona Emmanuel Imafidon, who hails from Edo State, is a graduate of Electrical Engineering from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu and an inventor. In this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU in ENUGU, he spoke on his inventions, how it can provide power for five years and 30 days when completed and the challenges of improving on its efficiency.
Can you explain your invention and how long you have been working on it?
I have been researching on generating constant power from thunder lightning. That is using a strike of thunder lightning to generate power that can serve Nigeria and Africa for five years and 30 days. That means that whenever thunder strike for once, we are sure of uninterrupted power for five years and thirty days.
One may think it is not possible and if it is possible why the western world has not converted lightning to electricity, but what I have developed so far is a prototype. There are five chambers including the trapping zone which is made of lightning arrestor. There is the storage zone and the conversion zone, which convert static energy into current electricity and transmit the energy into transmission zone. The transmission zones will first of all step down the power from as high as five mega volts and there are five storage zones that have the capacity of storing over 25 mega volts of power.
When it stores the 25 MV of power, the conversion zone takes one mega vote at a time, send signals to other sensory zones which shut down other sensory zones from discharging at the same time. Now the transmission zone of the power generating plant will step down the megavolt to whatever Nigerians need.
For instance, Nigeria is generating 330,000 megavolts, but my device generate 5 million volts and then give Nigerians their 330 KV and still have about 4670, 000 megavolts left as reserve.
What is the proof of your invention?
Taking a look at the prototype, the first time I worked on it was March 10, 2006. I built this prototype with five zones- the power trapping zone, the annexing zone and in between the annexing zone, there is the sensory zone, conversion zone and transmission zone. In Nigeria, we are generating 330,000 volts. Now when thunder strikes, the trapping zone (which is made of trapping arrestor) will trap a maximum of 5 mega volts from 330mgv that comes from lightning.
Lightning comes with 330 mega volts and the trapping arrestor here is capable of trapping five million megavolts, thereby allowing 330 megavolts to be wasted in the atmosphere for other lightning arrestors to trap and neutralise the energy to the ground through a process called earthling. If you look at most masts around, you will see something like a Y-metallic shape placed on top of a building, this is called lightning arrestor.
The lightning arrestor is used to trap the power discharged from lightning and this comes with a lightning power of about 20 billion watts, while in Nigeria we are generating 2,600 megawatts of power. The voltage lightning comes along with 330 megavolts, while we are generating 330,000 megavolts. So you can see that there is a far cry between lightning energy and hydro electricity which the country relies on.
The trapping zone will be built by the Russians, Germany or USA in order to capture a maximum of 5 mega volts and allow 330,000 megavolts to be wasted in the atmosphere for the trapping arrestor. Now, the five megavolts trapped by lightning will send the signal or energy to the annexing zone. You can see that we have so many trapping zones here and that is because you don’t know the direction lightning may come from. So, we cannot use one lightning director to achieve the purpose and that is why we have several lightning arrestors here.
We have various strategic places where these lightning arrestors will be mounted because we have some places that are prone to lightning and these include some parts of Enugu State like IMT area and Zik Avenue. When this lightning arrestor traps the lightning, it transmits energy down the annexing zone. Enugu State is going to be one of our trapping zones of lightning energy. We are going to have one in Edo, Cross River, Rivers and Delta states.
These riverine areas are prone to lightning. After that, the transmission zone captures each storage zone which accommodates five megavolts each. The five storage zones will give 25 megavolts. With this you can move this quantity through the sensory zones, so that when one is discharging energy, signals will be sent to other sensory zones to trap down other capacitors so that they will not discharge at the same time. The reason is that if they discharge at the same time, before we wait for lightning to come again, it may take a longer time and people will say the invention is not complete.
That is why we have to create a control measure to shut down other storage zones when one is working. For the one that is working the device is built in such a way that only one sensory zone works from the five megavolts stored in the first storage zone.
That one megavolt is being transmitted to the conversion zone and this is transmitting electricity into current electricity. When lightning comes with static electricity for instance when there is power outage, especially when it is raining. All of a sudden, there is lightning haze and when it is so, you find out that when lightning strikes, the earth wire will absorb the lightening energy and that energy that is being discharged to the ground carries the energy to the house socket through earth wire. And if the electricity is plugged to the wall socket, the neutral wire will transmit that energy through the wire that is inserted to the plug. When it gets to the electronics, it powers it automatically and that is the moment when it is going off, you will see smoke coming from the socket.
Have you been able to trap thunder lightning before now?
I have not been able to trap lightning due to insufficient fund to buy the materials. To trap lightning you will need high level energy industrial storage capacitors and this will be built either by Germany, China or USA. It will be built in such a way that when lightning strikes, it will charge the capacitor and the capacitor will retain static energy and this energy that is being retained will be converted through a unit called conversion zone and the conversion zone is an industrialised material that will be built by synergic work of various engineers. It is a project for which the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) needs to support me in order to come up with the work. The materials to be imported for it are not within the country.
I have done investigations in Lagos, Onitsha and Aba and these things are not within the Nigeria market. We need to build a capacitor and the conversion zone.
How possible is it?
Your car for instance, converts static energy to mechanical energy through the ignition system. That is what enables the car to move. The generator converts static energy from the spark plug through the electrical energy and that is how you have light. The motorcycle converts static energy and that is why you can ride it. So it is possible to convert static energy, stored in the capacitor into electrical energy to give light.
On the other hand, we will consult other research bodies in Enugu like PRODA which is into building of prototype. The conversion zone is another area where we can source for engineers to build. Currently, what I am doing is incomplete. The prototype cannot generate power, but theoretically it is possible and feasible because it has been proven over and over by professors at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN.)
There was a time I was interviewed by three professors from the UNN. They called me at a time to come and explain how the strike of lightning could generate electricity in Nigeria and Africa for five years and thirty days. Why I said Africa is because lightning does not only occur in Nigeria alone, it occurs across Africa. So wherever lightning occurs, this power generating plant will be built there.
The NSE is there to further the experiment, research, inventions to bring them into limelight. I found out that government set aside funds for research but how the funds are being used is a different kettle of fish. I am emphasising on NSE because in the USA, when a young person invents anything, all their engineers gather to give their support. But in Nigeria, they will want you to carry out the research alone so that when you fail, they will say you don’t know what you are talking about.
I want to use this medium to call on the NSE members, Metallurgical Engineers, Instrumentation and Control Engineers, Electrical Engineers and Astronomers to come. I need them. I have an industrial plan for this invention. This industrial plan has all the components needed for it.
I have gone on various exhibitions where I explained how the device works. I have explained this invention to Nigerians in the media. I have been on this for over 13 years.
I started this research on October 1, 2004. I have a write up on this. I also have the first prototype I designed in 2006, and then this second prototype was done in 2012. But I am still waiting for questions from the NSE and other relevant bodies and not just talking about it in the media. I believe from there they will know it is no longer a child’s play, but a serious matter.
One major advantages of generating power from lightning is that it will save Nigeria from constant blackout. Every time you hear that water level has dropped and as such we are not able to generate enough electricity. There is no year that thunder does not strike in Nigeria and one strike of lightning can give power for five years and thirty days, then we will have enough power for our home and industrial needs.
Do you have other inventions?
I have invented automatic generator turn-on and shut-down switch. It is an electrical device designed to turn on and shut down our gasoline generator and at the same time change over to public power supply through the change over section.
When connected to your generator, it has the ability to turn off the generator including the ‘I pass my neighbour type’ and every other generator which does not have switch off facility when there is public power supply. This device will switch off the generator and save you the stress of moving here and there. Why I use contactors for the change over switch is because it carries heavier current. There are some that can deliver 45 amps as the case may be. When it shuts down the generator, it also indicates that there is public power supply and you don’t need indicator to do that.
Again, assuming there is public power supply, you don’t need to turn down your generator and for generators that have chokes, as you press the button, it press a signal through the cable to the generator without you going to start the generator. We have over 400 users of this device presently in Nigeria. Since they started using it, none of them had lodged a complaint over the product. I am not building it to support importation of generator or use of generator but to support the research on thunder lightning energy which I am into.
This device is 100 percent made from local material and that is the beauty of it. It is very cheap. This product can improve our security and stress of moving about, especially when one is tired. It has installation manual for people to read and install by themselves.