Home-made Giant batteries
In all good conscience I could not allow this line of thought to go on without a warning about x ray generation, and the inherent dangers of exposure to X-rays.
Even Whimhurst Generators are capable of producing enough high voltage current to produce measurable amounts of x-rays. While limited exposure is one thing, it is much more likely that the enthusiastic barnyard would be Tesla could give himself cancer or neuter himself (or do so to a neighbors cat). While of course I have little true feeling for fellow experimenter as it lessens the competition, I do so worry about cats; you know they are always wandering around where they aren't wanted.
Still seriously, I do wonder if the notion about Steam isn't pointing towards practical idea. One: the whole notion of steam is to convert the charge into heat and then into electricity. Two: there are excellent and reasonably cheap insulating substances and techniques - and thanks to NASA more every few years - though the cheapest is still likely a glorified thermos bottle. Three: if (the big if) one can store the heat for a substantial period one might be able to siphon off that energy purely from that property of matter that electricity will flow from the hot side of a wire to a cold side, gradually and reasonably safely.
I'm reasonably certain that a Spherical (or geodesical or even pipe type) thermos bottle could be constructed from the following components: a non hydroscopic tension resistant and heat resistant interior bulb; a nice thick brake pad for a separator (used to isolate the inner bulb from the outer bulb - experiment as to the placement and number needed - the less the better - and allow for expansion by resting this each on a leaf spring, partly sprung - the leaf spring on the outer bulb). The outer bulb could be made of any non-hydroscopic material that would not suffer deterioration from being extremely dry (wood and concrete are out) and yet be sufficiently resistant to compression and heat with radiations. It would be lined with used brake pads. By the use of this material one cuts down on conducted heat. The interior side of this refractory should be silvered as one might a mirror or perhaps chromed. By the use of a mirrored surface -especially one tuned to infra red waves - one cuts down on radiant heat losses. If one buried the whole rig say seventy feet from the surface (s) one could be reasonably certain that the ground moisture would absorb radiations and hopefully most of any potential explosions would stay benign.
The interior between the bulbs would be evacuated by steam pump; one would place water in that interior space thermos, place a heat source in the bulb, and fire away until a sizable heat had evacuated the space between the bulbs except for superheated steam. I would build the exterior bulb in Two sections; the bottom section would be built around the "nozzle" end of the interior bulb to seal the heat sink chamber’s safety vent / cable entry with atmospheric pressure. Again a donut of brake material would insulate this connection between the bulbs, therefore the only connections between the interior and exterior bulbs would be brake material and evacuated steam - and I would look up a chemical trap for the steam; find a substance that reacts violently with water and heat and has as the resultant material a solid of much less volume than water and that prior substance. I would consider it likely that the brake material would not be sufficiently strong under the compressive loads of our vacuum unless it were quite broad and nestled inside an embracing double curved lip on both the interior and exterior bulbs. By use of a vacuum one cuts down on losses due to convection. Note: explosive decompression is very dangerous and it’s potential to harm goes up dramatically with the volume evacuated. Be absolutely certain of your calculations as to the strengths of your materials at temperature. There is no substitute for distance from any potential explosion. If you have a large number of people, place the device in a pit prior to decompressing., walk away, ignite the fire from a distance having your fellows remove any chance of any stray cats, children, etc. from wandering into the calculated danger zone by direct intervention of all possible routs to the potential hazard (make a circle at a safe distance refuse all entry for several hours). The idea is that all openings into the vacuum chamber would be sealed by air pressure automatically a large ball bearing seated in lead makes for an effective steam vent while not being heavy enough to block the exit of steam.
But what to use as a heat sink? One it must be economical. Two: it must have a huge latent energy capacity. Three: it must get hot enough to be useful in steam generation when exposed to the types of electricity transmitted from lightning. Four: it must not expand or contract too much while it is being put through the paces. Five: It would be nice if it weren’t a poison. Hmmmm, do you own a gold mine?
Just thin enough cross sections of gold would likely fit the bill, if gold were cheap for you. One would wind the gold in a refractory and experiment to see how thin it would need to be to both resist electrical flow enough to get hot and thick enough not to boil away. One might need to make the gold hollow and fill it with a substance that would get hot near such a flow (by plating various other wires).
If one merely heats a wire on one end you know electricity will be excited from the hot end it should follow therefore that the longer the wire the more juice !
The bugbear here is perhaps the effects of rapid heating on the wires, I suspect that as a plasma there would be little change in density so here’s the plan: Always keep it hot. Build it hot, keep it hot. Pour the conductor into a non-conductive mould of coil shape or alternatively heat vented an non conductively encapsulated (except at the end) coil of a few hundred thousand turns with a diode plugging the sealed end. This is the output diode) Heat until the wire is plasma - plug the end with an insulating diode facing the other way. (this is your input diode). (one of course could plug first with the input diode and later with the output diode). The strength here must be in the refractory / insulator and the plugs. The difficulty is in finding a proper diode, or wire/rod plug that will in turn rout power to the remote diode (if no diode can take the heat). IE: the plasma hot (sic) coil cannot thermally power down through the end plugs and those plugs must both conduct electricity well and be structurally blessed so as to retain the somewhat fluid coil.
You might consider this a plasma core. I so name it ( if it has not been named on a Star Treck episode).
If the thermos is sufficiently “happy” there will be little heat loss until there is a flow of electrical energy. The thermal energy will vacate the core via this flow.
Pray for sufficient strikes to keep the system going. If there are more than enough throw some current to ground (deep).
To keep costs down consider the following: The bigger the better! One can make a thermos from a mountain or bedrock. Find a suitable rock, carve it out ! Stones will have acceptable expansion contraction curves if large enough. Buy or build a water drill with a remote controllable snake. Use a very large vacuum chamber and a very large interior “bulb” all carved from the same rock. Place the insulation pads as one removes the underside of the floor, that way, no lifting. Choose a rock that is somewhat of a refractory already, or line it with same, and “sputter plate“ a mirror on the walls of the vacuum chamber. Carve a third chamber all around the other two starting with the floor and seal it. (wedge timbers under the floor to prevent disaster as you excavate the roof.) Always expect an explosion, dig it deep enough in to prevent it from making it to you or the neighbors cat. Think bigger than your house., but work through a tiny hole that you can seal with a large ball bearing. (there should be tax advantages here, few get taxed for a hole.) there is no reason why the interior space must match the exterior. Small is better here if the rock will take the forces on a small scale. To help optimize the effectiveness of the radiant shielding build a second sheild of aluminium foil, and stick it in through the tiny hole and inflate it in sections, then tear holes in the back so it wont explode when you evacuate.
Remember me if it works!
Blood and Fire,
PS: one might try sodium for the coil, plated in gold