How is Panem powered?
If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and long to delve deeper into the fictional universe, now you can with some real science. In anticipation of the November 21 release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Lionsgate has partnered with YouTube creators to bring Panem to life. And one creator video offers a very non-fictional way to generate renewable power in the post-apocalyptic District 5 — harness electricity from water with “Lord Kelvin’s thunderstorm.”
There are 12 districts in the Hunger Games universe, each of which specializes in something vital for citizens of Panem. Every aspect of life in the districts is run from the Capital, the seat of Panem’s totalitarian government. District 5 specializes in electrical power. As the voice of District 5, Veritasium’s Derek Muller shows us a very clever way to produce electricity with falling water. Watching the video is mandatory:
Water contains charged particles called ions, and while these ions can be either negatively or positively charged, water on the whole water is neutral. But falling water will occasionally develop a charge imbalance, that is, a stronger positive or negative charge. This imbalance will even out eventually, but not if you harness that imbalance for electricity. Here’s where Muller’s strange looking set-up comes into play.
Muller has water falling through a wire ring onto an inverted mesh cone. As a charge imbalance develops, the mesh will become charged. The mesh on one side of the apparatus is connected to the ring on the other side of it. So if the mesh on the left becomes negatively charged so will the ring on the right side. With the right ring negatively charged, it will attract the positive ions in the water falling thought it. This positively charges the mesh on the right and, because they’re cross connected, also positively charges the ring on the left. It’s a cycle that builds: the more charged the meshes become, the stronger the opposite rings attract certain ions, letting charged water fall on the mesh surfaces, increasing the charge.
The charge builds over time until a threshold is reached, in this case around 20,000 volts. Then, electrons jump from the negative rings to the positive rings across a spark gap, ionizing the air between them. The apparatus is in essence an electric generator that uses nothing more than metal and falling water.
So the districts and Panem might not be real, but pulling electricity out of falling water is very real — something you can even try at home.
Feature image via Veritasium/You Tube