Wirelessly Charge Your Phone From High Voltage Power Lines

Using nothing more than an antenna, a spark plug, a flyback transformer, a diode, and a car phone charger, [Kreosan] have implemented the world’s most dangerous cell-phone charger: wirelessly charging their phone from high voltage power lines. This is a demonstration of a hack that we thought was just an urban legend, but it’s probably best to leave this as just a demo — this one is probably illegal and definitely dangerous.

The charger works by holding an old TV aerial fairly close to high voltage overhead cables, and passing the resulting tiny current through a spark plug and a flyback transformer to ground. To charge the phone, they tapped the transformer, rectified it through a diode, and fed it into a car-plug phone charger. [Kreosan] claims to harvest enough “free” electricity to charge the phone. (Where by “free”, we mean stolen from the electric grid.)

If you regularly find yourself running out of charge and like a bit of danger why not make a power bank that looks like a bomb instead. Sure we don’t advise you take it on a plane but it seems like a much safer option than using overhead power lines.


102 thoughts on “Wirelessly Charge Your Phone From High Voltage Power Lines

          1. It can be used in an amplifying mode. If you reduce the output power and inject a signal at a few watts the magnetron will follow. This only works with FM signals as it works like an injection locked oscillator.

    1. Where I live they have a 500KV backbone system that runs from the Northwest quadrant right down to the extreme South, a total run of about 2,500 kMs.

      A powerline is an electric line with a nominal voltage of 66 000 volts. A transmission line means an electric line with a nominal voltage of more than 66 000 volts. A powerline requires 3000 mm clearance to ground for the longest spans between supporting structures.

      A transmission line requires clearance of at least 6400 mm to ground for the longest spans between supporting structures. These are the standards in Australia and New Zealand.

      Clearance has to accommodate wind movement of conductor spans; temperature (expanding and therefore lowering conductor spans); climatic conditions (conductive snow, rain and moist fog).

      British standards can be seen at > https://electricalnotes.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/minimum-electrical-clearance-2/ <.

    1. Doesn’t seem too far fetched to me. I used to walk my dog under high voltage lines. One day I (wearing sneakers) reached down to scratch her (wearing grounded paws). She yelped and I yelled as we both got a couple hundred milliseconds of 60-Hz zaps. Minor zaps happened a few other times when I forgot to isolate myself.

  1. Is the power truly stolen if it’s being wasted? I would personally ethically equate this to dumpster diving, but an power transmission version.

    Cool hack.

    (I’m sure this is a stupid question and in a few replies I will be greatly sad that HaD doesn’t have an edit function.)

    1. It’s the same argument as saying “the lights of your car are running for free because the engine is running anyway”.
      What people don’t realise is that the generator will put more load on the engine when the lights are on, which costs more fuel.
      Same for the power lines. The electric field surrounding the lines will always be there if there is current running through the cables, but if you’re tapping from that field, then it drains a small bit of energy.

      1. While your statement is true, the minimal interaction of Kreosan’s setup with the field would likely not even be measurable by the carrier. Simply parking a car under the lines would create a larger load. Also, in all non-“smart grid” systems, load/generation balancing is most often achieved by “dumping” excess capacity. Finally, my guess is that wherever this was filmed, direct theft of power from the distribution side of the grid represents an issue several orders of magnitude greater than this ever would.

        TL-DR; the load this setup has on the system is so infinitesimally small in comparison to other forms of loss, power companies would laugh at the idea of going after someone for charging their cellphone while standing under an HV transmission line.

        1. >”Also, in all non-“smart grid” systems, load/generation balancing is most often achieved by “dumping” excess capacity. ”

          Bullshit. Where would they “dump” it?

          Momentary overproduction is naturally absorbed by all the spinning loads (motors/generators) and returned into the grid later. It’s kinda like a large flywheel, which acts as a buffer so the generator outputs can be adjusted, and the state of the buffer is globally available on the grid as it’s synchronous over a large area, so even in a “dumb” grid you know the state of the system by following the frequency. There are large resistor banks on the grid for emergency situations, but those are not used for active load balancing.

          The need for a “smart grid” today is because there’s an increasing amount of non-spinning capacity added: photovoltaics, and wind turbines which simply drop out of sync and go offline rather than act as flywheels when the wind/load situation changes, and most of the new ones are buffered through inverters anyhow, so there’s less and less margin for error.

          1. modern wind turbines have a very stable output, there are several layers of power conditioning and once the power leaves the substation it is essentially already synchronized, in matter of fact wind turbines are now one of the more popular ways of regulating the grid in its entirety, to the point where some wind farms in Europe were specifically built for this purpose.

        1. wrong example. The whole purpose of radio is to emit power so that others can draw from it.
          A better example would be: you are creating an antenna for powering your house from a radio station that is so efficient that it reduces the radio pickup of everybody else.

        2. To get a enough power to run a house you’d have to be very close and the antenna needed would be rather conspicuous.
          It might cost a lot more than an equivalent solar or wind setup.

      2. “the lights of your car are running for free because the engine is running anyway”.

        Oh no, don’t make me break out the brake specific fuel consumption curves….(Short story is IC engine has best efficiency in a very narrow load/speed range therefore below that, adding load can result in greater efficiency, also about 2l/hr is as low as average 2-3l engine can suck at idle and still idle smooth so small amount of load added to that can be “freeish”, comes out of idle bleed air adjustment reducing pumping loss.)

        1. When my car is idling and I switch the fan on, the car starts idling at a higher rev.
          I suspect that the same will happen when I switch on my lights, which I think draw 100+ watts.
          That’s for a 1.4 Liter car, perhaps for a bigger size your story becomes more true.

          1. That’s because the alternator has shit efficiency at low RPM. It uses more field current to raise the voltage, and when you switch the fan on (10-20W) the voltage at the battery drops, and the controller draws several amps of current to raise it back up.

            It basically multiplies the load on the engine by 2-3x when you run electronics at idle.

          2. I am guessing that by ‘fan’ he really meant air-conditioning because something as small as 50Watts or so shouldn’t cause the engine to kick up the idle.

            Alternator field regulation current requirements are not the real issue.

            The issue is stall predictability and available error margin for the engine management unit because there is a human in control of the clutch / transmission.

            To save the human the embarrassment of stalling from traffic lights when the air-conditioner compressor is running because the human will not be aware of this and compensate accordingly so the idle kicks up to compensate instead.

          3. It doesn’t necessarily do it by using more fuel though, idle is often a couple of points on the rich side of lambda point, to keep the cat hot. Just needs to open the idle air control valve and allow a little more air in.

      3. “It’s the same argument as saying “the lights of your car are running for free because the engine is running anyway”.”

        It seems like this would be much more applicable if we were talking about someone charging a phone using solar cells positioned next to an intersection in the path of the headlights of cars passing through or stopped at the light.

        In that case, the emissions are going to be there regardless of the presence of the phone charger. The same is true of the emissions around a high voltage power line. There may be more of a parasitic load on the source than there would be for a solar panel intercepting photons from headlights, but I can’t imagine it would be much more.

        1. Or a maybe putting a small wind turbine and charging their phone using the air currents generated by the passing vehicles.
          The amount of current stolen is so small only a complete moron would actually arrest someone over it.
          Though if you wanted to charge you phone for free most public places in civilized countries will let you plug in your charger in an outlet which is much safer.

          1. If he arranges the system so that the current is no more than what would have leaked through air anyways, is he stealing anything?

            For example – if you add an isulator to first reduce the leakage over some area, and then poke a hole for the antenna in it.

    2. While power transmission does include some losses anyway, This is still stealing as it is drawing the current from the wires albeit wirelessly, without the antenna pulling the current there would be less electricity wasted.

      1. Is it stealing? If it is then RF power transmitted from a radio station is being stolen from radios. I see this more as public domain power transmission. The power company could have put a Faraday cage around their lines if they didn’t want freeloaders.

          1. In most cases the power line is located within a right-away. I recall even back in the 70’s people tried to tap power this way, and got into legal trouble. But they were attempting to power a home, not charge a Phone

          2. I wonder if any drones are equipped to recharge their batteries by flying near high voltage power lines.
            It would probably depend on the drone’s power requirements as to how feasible that would be.

            I may have just given someone a bad idea.

        1. You might think that I’m going to steal your car, but in fact, I will merely borrow it while you’re mot using it. After all, if you don’t want me too, you should remove the wheels from your car at night.

          1. “Do you mind if I use your money while you sleep”

            There are, in fact, plenty of overnight loans in the world.

            What is a ‘Repurchase Agreement – Repo’
            A repurchase agreement (repo) is a form of short-term borrowing for dealers in government securities. The dealer sells the government securities to investors, usually on an overnight basis, and buys them back the following day.

        2. If I give you a dollar did you steal it? What if I was giving $100 to someone else as agreed and you came and took one of the dollars while I was doing so?

          You’re an idiot for comparing power distribution with radio and you should feel bad for making your post.

    3. The antenna has to be close enough to inductively couple with the wire, so it loads it down.

      If every inch of the wire was radiating enough energy to charge a phone it would be wildly inefficient.

      1. Also, you would have to be in space to receive those wavelengths at 60 Hz if it was actually being radiated and not a transmission line. Not sure why people can’t grasp the concept of an air-core transformer / induction on here, but yes definitely theft of power (not that I care).

    4. It has been to court many times and yes, it is stealing. It goes back to people running long wires under transmission lines and running light bulbs in their houses. An insulated wire along the tops of fence posts that paralleled a power line then made a wide loop were a telltale. People who just ran a wire out and back got nothing, so there must have been some way for hacker lore to get distributed in the 19 teens and twenties.

    5. It is no far-field effect, like radio reception, it is more a near field effect or capacitive voltage divider. So the line is loaded a tiny bit when you use this power.

  2. I love it. Most interesting. The law is funnier than laws of physics and you never know what the law will say if this is wasted or stolen electricity. Either way this was a fun hack to watch. And no I am not doing it.

    1. Err yes we pretty much know exactly what the law says. The law says this was stealing in every single case where it’s ever been tried (and there are a lot, it used to be a good farmer’s trick to disguise a pickup wire as just a fence which happened to be connected to power electronics on the other end).

    1. Not sure they were lightning flashes these guys live near Donetsk Ukraine, Quite a few of their video’s have explosions/flashes in the background. These guys have true hacking spirit getting on with their crazy experiments as their world is blown up around them.

  3. It’d probably work better if they made the TV antenna elements both parallel to the overhead lines. Better still if they instead used a coil of wire wrapped around some former and could (safely!!!) reduce the distance between the overhead line and the coil. The helical windings on HF radio antenna car whips comes to mind.

    They’re effectively playing with the Biot-Savart law here, and is in fact, the operating principle of a transformer.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_field#Magnetic_field_and_electric_currents

    In this case, the transformer is air cored, and the “coils” are just straight pieces of wire. The longer the wire or the stronger the field, the more current is induced. Since the field is directly related to distance, it increases the closer you bring the two conductors together.

    That said, this sort of activity is highly dangerous. People have lost life and/or limb (from severe burns) because they got too close and the HV supply saw them as a path to ground. Highly dangerous experimental stunts are something of a Kreosan specialty, it would be wise to not blindly duplicate their efforts.

      1. Perhaps not… there is an electric field here, and the same wires behave like the two plates of an air-dielectric capacitor here.

        The fact is, this contraption is part transformer, part capacitor. Given the frequencies involved though, I’d expect it to be more magnetic than electric field that’s having the effect.

          1. Ah I see now, thanks for sharing your insight. So the larger the effective surface area of the antenna the greater the current and the charge is the distance to the earth?

    1. I don’t think it’s inductive. I think they’re working the voltage difference between ground (and anything with a good ground path) and the field voltage in mid-air. The spark plug “insulates” the antenna from ground so that it can ride at whatever electrical potential is right for its distance to the wires, except when it arcs.

      The transformer is just there to turn these 10 kV – 25 kV peaks into something 12 V ish so that it doesn’t fry the DC/DC converter.

  4. I have an isolation transformer in the power supply of my device so if I plug into the grid on the wrong side of my meter it isn’t steeling right? There is no direct electrical connection between my load and the power line. It must just be wasted power I am tapping into.

  5. Reminds me of the apochryphal story of the Australian outback farmer who laid a 1 mile long wire to act as a secondary of an air cored transformer formed with the overhead power lines of the railway. Powered his whole farm for a while before he got caught.

    1. I won’t sat that it *is* bollocks because I know it could be done but I am very skeptical for a number of reasons –

      1) That flyback transformer (LOPT) is small I would guess that it would normally put out about 15kV (secondary) from a 80 Volt primary. Reversing that to get a 10 Volts would mean the other end is about 1.8kV which doesn’t seem to match the spark shown.

      2) A flyback transformer has a voltage doubler (or trippler) internally connected to the HV output. In this application that would mean the transformer would be operating at the very edge of it’s total saturation capacity and it’s efficiency would be so low in this operating mode that I doubt any significant energy would transfer to the low voltage side.

      3) The antenna elements are at 45 degrees so they would be shorting out most of the field energy. They should be at 180 degrees and much much longer.

      4) The segment showing the spark of the spark plug is separate to the rest of the video.

      5) If this were true then you could kill yourself just by holding two bits of metal like the antenna elements extended out with your arms. The people who design these systems are normally much more considerate than that!

      1. After looking again there was a spark from the plug in the same segment.

        The flyback transformer used is old old old. It’s like from the ‘black and white’ era in brands like RCA and HMV and it has no internal voltage doubler / trippler.

  6. Here in NZ farmers used to dig a trench, lay an insulated wire, have it come up under the HT lines(110KV) have a few loops of scrap fencing wire to nick free electricity, yes its stealing, and as the guy said before, its basically an air core transformer, it works because the voltages on high tension lines are extreme, often 110000 or more volts, by the time the magetic field reaches the ground it could only be a few thousand, and with only a few loops of wire your lookin in the sub 200v range.

    of course this is during the early 90’s 80s and backwards when “kiwi ingenuity fix anything with No.8 fencing wire” was still a think now days most are as thick as a fence post and couldn’t repair anything, don’t know what happened to my country…

  7. Many years ago a farmer based in New Zealand was busted for power theft. He had large HT lines running over his farm and used the fence to not only capture the power but the power was then run back in to an electric fence generator giving him the ability to run the electric fence for free.

    There was also an instance where another guy was not convicted but had been investigated as he was living next to an AM broadcast tower and was using a similar method to run the lights in his house. In both instances the creativity was seen as theft.

    IIRC the guy who was pulling power from the AM transmitter was found because the transmitter was not performing as expected and there was a huge amount of signal loss.

    1. It’s not very efficient and I doubt they detected it by any other means other then someone seeing it or ratting him him out unless it was very large which would be very expensive and definitely would not pay back on the investment
      https://users.physics.unc.edu/~deardorf/phys25/rwp/exam1rwpsolution.html
      Most of the time when people steal power they just directly attach something to the line.
      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2010/04/29/a-stupidsuicidal-way-to-get-electricity-for-free-meat-hook-power-line/

  8. It is probably 13th-hand news by the time it got told to me(Read: Chinese whispers)…

    However I have heard a story of a farmer whom an electricity supplier decided to trespass and set-up a load of distribution pylons through his farmland (Privately owned farm). He laid a device to extract power from said lines. When taken to court, he was told he was stealing to which his attitude was they stole bits of his land and the device is just the electricity Co paying rent… Apparently the court went in his favor.

    Like said, Pure hearsay though: Take with a pinch of salt.

  9. Now you’ve got me wondering if it’s possible to turn the support tower into a sensor antenna.
    Slowly, carefully isolate 3 legs from ground – adding ground cables with big switches.
    Put the charge circuit on the 4th leg, and open the switches on the other 3 legs…

    Any power that USED to be coupled into the tower (and then to ground) STILL goes to ground, but your via your charger circuit.

    1. No, you mixed something up, the wavelength for the typical power line frequency of 50Hz is 6000km, so 2λ is 12000km. your 100.000km would correspond to 6Hz. That is even less than the railway frequency of 16,7Hz.

  10. As a kid, we used to go stand under the high tension lines at night with a fluorescent tube in our hands. http://www.industrytap.com/florescent-bulbs-unplugged-and-shinning-tapping-electromagnetic-fields/1763 We also used that trick for nefarious purposes which I shall not elaborate upon. My father was an engineer at the EPA, and one of his projects in the 70’s was to investigate the possible health effects of living or working near high tension lines.

    1. I had the same thoughts about health issues. Lots of articles about concerns and cancer effect. See
      https://en.geovital.com/how-close-is-too-close-when-living-near-transmission-power-lines/
      In a British medical journal found “Living near high-voltage power lines raises children’s risk of leukemia by 69%, a British study shows.”

      So stealing power can have its cost. They also said they don’t know why it raises the odds of cancer.

      1. Be careful with statistics like that, say the something has a 10% chance of happening if I increase it’s chance by 50% some people will think the chance goes to 60%, but it means the chance goes to 15%.

  11. I’ve done the fluorescent tube thing too. It’s pretty cool! If you hold the tube half way, it only lights half the tube! We have 400kv lines along with 132kv in the UK.

  12. The details in the video is so vague that’m sure that it’s pure fakery – it’s not first time Kreosan made “fake” videos to get attention. Using a ferrite flyback transformer gives no meaning for pulses like shown in the video.

  13. the biggest issue here i believe might be the diode on the HV winding…
    but maybe it was damaged-short or capacitive effects at the frequency of the sparkgap miiight overcome it?

    other then that i agree on the possibility,
    i persoanlly have lit little neon indicator tubes as well as suuuper efficient LEDs,
    but when your bulb is either 3 or 60 volts most of the POWER is wasted as heat (in the air)

    the power is transferred capacitively but the air also has resistance so they both have an effect. usign a transformer to change the ratio’s between volts and amps juuust might work here, i mean if theres 1/4mA times 1/10 (a guess) system voltage, then maybe (for 500kV) you might get over 10 Watts; hmm, maybe this might actually work?

    this would all assume that it is the CRACKLING SOUND of the air being transferred through that capacitance and NOT the BASS sound of 50/60Hz as the high-frequency flyback will not run at 50/60hz but it would at “crackling” frequencies! also any additional hiss noise might be a mix of frequncies above audible range. and again, the spark-gap (if any) would provide aditional CONTROLLED modulation, maybe an intrinsic (ramdom-ish) PWM from charge build-up?

    flame away

  14. QUOTE: “The charger works by holding an old TV aerial fairly close to high voltage overhead cables.”

    This works for aerial (pole mounted) metallic cable TV – except you get TV signals! Of course, fibre optic cables don’t radiate!

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