OBAYAGBONA Emmanuel Imafidon (aka Scientist Emma) says he has invented a device that can permanently put to rest the perennial power problem in the country. According the young man, with adequate support from government, the invention, ‘Thunder Lightning Energy Converter Project’, which has reached appreciable stage, power outage would be a thing of the past in Nigeria.
In this chat with CHUKS EZE, in Enugu, the 2015 graduate of Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Institute of Management & Technology, IMT, Enugu, also declared that the project is eco-friendly, safe and reliable. He as well disclosed that his invention prowess dates back to his early life, pointing out that it earned him full scholarship at Challenge Academy Secondary School, in Warri Delta State…
When did you start invention and fabrication of devises?
It dates back to my early life. I bagged a scholarship in secondary school through inventions and armature fabrications. And as days went by, I did touch lights and extension sockets, bedside lamps and drinking troufe, used in poultry. But I would say that the time I really invented something reasonable was in 2012, when I developed what I called ‘rechargeable solar wall clock’.
The clock can supply light for up to 4 hours during power outage from the public power supply. And in 2014, I designed an improved version of the clock which can give light for 12 hours. The one that gives light for four hours works with a remote control, while the one that lasts for 12 hours, has a solar panel and runs on solar system as well as on public power supply and generating set. Both automatically turn on their lights immediately there is power outage and there is darkness.
They as well have USB-enabled points where one can charge phones and other devises during power outage. I have also done one or two electrical gadgets in the past, and I can mass-produce all my products, if given the needed logistic enablement. I have also invented generator booster, which can enable one to use pressing iron with the little 500-watt generating set, popularly called ‘I beta pass my neighbour’. And while using the iron, one could still put on other appliances such as television, electric cooker and microwave among others. But it is not designed to power refrigerator. And all my products are efficient, durable and also given out with appreciable warrantee.
Which high institution did you attend?
I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering the Institute of management and Technology, Enugu. I graduated in 2015.
What was your final year project design in IMT?
I did a 1.5 KVA inverter. It was a well-designed and durable product and I think that it is still being used in IMT.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
I have been involved in series of researches as well as tours to display my new products and as well solicit for funds and sponsorship of my current project. That is why I have not been able to do my compulsory National Youth Service programme. I also set up a school at my residence, where I train people on inverter and solar technology production.
You got an award from Enugu State government, what was it about?
The award is called the 50 Most Influential Young People in Enugu State. It was organised by Enugu State government, through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Youth Affairs (Dr. Chukwuemeka Asogwa).
What is your current project about?
It is about generating electricity from lightning. Many people are afraid of lightning because of its devastating effects at times, but it can still be of enormous benefit to humanity. Statistics have shown that lightning occurs with an average of 20 billion watts energy and up to an average of 140 million times per annum. In sub-Saharan Africa, it strikes over 80 to 100 million times per annum and about 60 to 80 million times in Nigeria per annum.
How did you come about attempting to generate electricity from lightning?
I was prompted to explore such means by the perennial power outages in Nigeria. Power outage has dealt a heavy blow on the individual and collective economies of Nigerians, and nobody feels happy about it. I always feel embarrassed whenever people shout ‘Up NEPA’ or rain courses on the power sector whenever there is sudden power outage. Such should not be happening in a country so richly blessed like Nigeria. From NEPA to Power Holding Company and now EEDC and co, yet it is still same old story of one step forward and several steps backwards.
What new story or song do you have about the power sector?
My new song is that we have what it takes to exit the era of epileptic power to an era of non-interrupted and eco-friendly power, through thunder lightning energy source. The project is called ‘Thunder lightning Energy Converter Project’. What I have here is the non-working prototype. It comprises of five zones, but I just installed four zones, leaving out one to keep some of my secrets to my heart. So, in this four parts of the five zones are trapping zones, which are made of lightning arrestors.
The trapping zone is that by which lightening is trapped through the lightning arrestor or lightning boot. The whole thing is specifically designed according to my specification. Similar devices in Nigeria are meant for earthening purposes – which is a process of sapping excess power supply and discharging them down to earth. But in my method, we isolate the armoured cable from the ground.
We use a special arrestor that traps a particular amount of lightning and send the energy to a harnessing zone, which will harness the energy for 8, 928 hours, which is a year and seven days. Looking at this harnessing zone, one of them is meant to store energy for about 8,928 days. And the five harnessing zones, is capable of storing energy for five years and over 40 days.
What happens after the harnessing?
From the harnessing zone, the energy is then channelled to storage zones. One storage zone however, discharges One Megavolts (1 MV) and its signals sent through other harnessing zones, via sensors, to shut down other harnessing zones, and prevent them from discharging at the same time. One is meant to discharge at a time while others remain shut. Then the 1 MV that is discharged from the harnessing zones is channelled to the conversion zone, which converts the power from static energy to current energy.
From the conversion zone, the energy is transmitted via overhead cables, which is meant to transmit 1 MV high tension down to the high tension step-down transformers, which represents the transmission zone, and which will step down the 1 MV, from the conversion zone to whatsoever the country needs. For instance, if the Nigeria’s current generation is about 330 KV, they will step down to 132 KV, then to 33 KV; further down to 11 KV and finally down to 4.15 KV. That is what all of this is about.
In layman’s terms, what is thunder lightning energy and how does it work?
Thunder lightning energy is all about generating power through harnessed lightning strikes. When lightning strikes and there is any harnessing zone, which I explained above, that is not fully charged, it would be charged up immediately. Simply put, when the stored or charged energy is in use, the energy would be dropping and anytime lightning strikes it provides energy that refills the used one.
It is not like solar energy, it is rather about trapping energy from lightning, harnessing it and converting it from static energy to electrical energy, and then transmitting it to the national grid for the consumption of the citizens of Nigeria, who are the end-users. So, while the solar panel is used for solar energy, lightning arrestor is used for thunder lightning energy.
How would all that you have illustrated benefit the ordinary man who is eager to witness practical results?
When it comes to fruition, Nigeria would never suffer blackout anymore and children will cease to shout ‘Up NEPA’ whenever there is power outage. Businesses would cease to close up due to epileptic power supply, and those that had relocated to other countries would begin to return their investments to Nigeria. You cannot talk about a successful country without steady power because both are like Siamese twins. Once there is steady power, investors would definitely start trooping in. The reason many investors find China as a veritable haven, for instance, is because there is constant electricity there.
Can you transform the project into a functional one that can serve the entire country?
If I am given an opportunity as well as the needed logistics, we can expand it to feed the entire country because, like I had illustrated earlier, from the first high tension line that would be stepped down to what the country needs, it would be transmitted straight to the national grid. And from the grid system, the entire parts of the country can receive power supply, for five years and thirty days, just by a strike of lightning.
Is the power generated by the invention compatible with the grid system?
Yes, it is. And like I said, we are stepping down from one-mega volts to whatsoever the country needs. If Nigeria needs 310 KV, for instance, to feed the grid system, this invention is capable of delivering it. And another advantage of the invention is that it is eco-friendly. It is a clean energy – safe, reliable and effective.
Are you doing the project alone or with collaborative efforts?
I started the project alone and brought it this, but it is actually a project that deserves collaborative efforts. It is a synergic exercise that requires huge funding and inputs of other experts such as electrical engineers, metallurgical engineers and astronomers among others, because the special arrestors that I talked about ought to be fixed at several strategic areas that are prone to lightning across the country, state, region or project coverage area as the case may be, and not clustered in one area. The idea is that whenever lightning strikes in any particular region, it would transmit the energy to the harnessing zone through overhead cables.
What challenges are preventing you from delivering a finished version of the product, to back it up with proof?
The bulk of my challenge is funds. I need financial support from government, individuals and corporate organisations. However, I am not requesting that raw cash should be given to be, but rather, my request is that the government should buy into the project and create a platform for the Nigeria Society of Engineers, NSE, to partner with me.
The project is just like fabricating a car. One person never manufactures a car because a lot is involved. So, I am open for collaboration and I would like both the government and NSE to partner with me so we can jointly carry the project to fruition, for the benefit of the whole country. Also, I would like the Federal Government to set up a body that would screen the invention monitor its progress and manage the funds to be set aside for the project.
It would as well be nice if the government can link me up with the nation’s research institutions so we could have easy and faster completion of the project. I am available to collaborate with other bodies so we can get the job done to enable me focus on other projects in the pipeline. The project is an invention and there is no part of the world that uses lightning as a major source of electricity.
Are you saying that you cannot complete the project alone?
If I am given the required funds and human resources, I can do it and it would work effectively. The only thing is that it would not be completed as early as it would, with collaborative efforts.
Where are products that you had invented?
I have sold them out; none of my products remains, as it is said. The thing is that people usually rush my products soon after I display them and I sell them to either fund my education or to fund further research on the main project which I am doing now.