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A Is it possible to create artificial lightning?

  1. Jul 28, 2016 #1
    I wonder if it is possible to create artificial lightning for an experiment. The technology has evolved at great extent over past decade. So creating very small scale artificial lightning for few seconds/micro seconds for experimental purpose
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2016 #2

    anorlunda

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    An electric light and a candle are both sources of artificial light. You will have to be more specific in your question.
     
  4. Jul 28, 2016 #3

    DrClaude

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    Lightning, not lighting :wink:

    Depends on how strong a lightning bolt you want. Small ones, i.e. sparks, are very easy to achieve.

    See the thread https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/can-we-create-artificial-lightning.322782/
     
  5. Jul 28, 2016 #4
    I am talking about lightning/thunderbolt not the electrical lighting.
     
  6. Jul 28, 2016 #5
    I am building an arduino based lightning detector.So to show the output I need to create lightning for few seconds so that an electrical system should measure the different quantities like voltage and current.
     
  7. Jul 28, 2016 #6

    jambaugh

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    I've seen a few education/documentary programs on TV in the past about lightning research. There is (or was) a research site in Florida (Lightning capital of the US) where they induced lightning strikes by firing rockets trailing wire. Also there are various laboratories which utilize large Van De Graff generators to produce substantial electrical discharges (i.e. artificial lightning) in order to test equipment for its resilience under natural lightning.

    And then, technically, every time you walk on carpet on a dry day and touch your hand to metal creating a spark you're creating artificial lightning or a sort.
     
  8. Jul 28, 2016 #7
    Thank you very much. But is it possible to demonstrate it using some equipment. I am doing a small scale project so buying or employing Van De Graff generator is not feasible.
     
  9. Jul 28, 2016 #8
    Is a doorknob in your budget?

    Sorry if that sounds flippant. Lightning is basically just a spark or arc. You could touch metal things to the terminals of a car battery to get little sparks.

    You can get bigger arcs with higher voltages. But you won't get anything close to lightning-level without some serious power.
     
  10. Jul 29, 2016 #9

    jambaugh

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    A Van De Graaff generator is a rather simple device and you'll find hundreds of DIY online plans, some better than others. But I don't know how effective, or efficient building one would be for your project. You say you are building a lightning detector. What is your mode of detection? If you're measuring an E-M spike then any device which can produce such would be sufficient. An ignition coil and a 12v battery could be sufficient if close enough to your device.

    There's an inverse square law for propagation of waves (of any type) in space which means that moving your source 10 times closer makes it 100 times more powerful in effect so it need only be 1/100th as powerful to start with. According to the font of all knowledge and truth, Wikipedia, a typical lightning bolt is a 5billion joule event.

    Assume you want to detect say a somewhat weaker bolt (1 billion joules) that is as far as 10 km away.

    Well then a discharge 10cm = 1/10th meter away, 1/100,000 as far need only be 1/10,000,000,000 as powerful which is a 10th of a joule. So you need a discharge within about that order of magnitude within 10 cm. Note that at 5cm it need only be 1/4th as much but our calculation is getting a bit sketchy at this point as we're in the near field range at typical SW VHF and the inverse square business breaks down there.

    (Since c = 30million meters per sec, a 30megahertz wave has 1m wavelength and 300megahertz wave has wavelength 1/10 m = 10cm.)

    So something in the 10 to 100 milli-joule range discharge at a 3 to 10cm distance should do. An automotive ignition coil produces on the order of 50millijoules (again according to wikipedia) per spark so at the worst hold your project next to (~3cm from) the ignition wires of a running automobile but better might be to find a used ignition coil and some online instructions to make a specific spark generator.

    Have fun and do be careful not to electrocute yourself.

    I'm serious about that last part. Here's a link about safety with Van de Graaff generators which includes some general info about electrical safety: http://practicalphysics.org/van-de-graaff-generator-safety.html
     
  11. Jul 29, 2016 #10

    jambaugh

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    Let me add to my earlier post, if you are building a lightning detector then the ultimate test bench is to detect real lightning. Simulations, analogs and calculations are all well and good but the science is in holding all of those up against and actual, honest-to-Christmas real test. Time and preparation will eventually provide you with that.
     
  12. Jul 29, 2016 #11
    I don't think the inverse square law applies here.

    This may be useful:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paschen's_law
    You will need roughly > 350V to breakdown air which is mostly Nitrogen. At atmospheric pressure (##\frac{1}{760}## torr), your arc will only be tens of microns long. You can get much longer arcs if you use a vacuum chamber. You can also use higher voltages, but you should make yourself aware of the dangers of high voltages.
     
  13. Jul 29, 2016 #12

    jambaugh

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    In my usage it does, I was describing the propagation of the EM waves induced by a lightning strike. I was basing my analysis on a (possibly incorrect) assumption that the OP's application utilized EM induction to detect the lightning. (Basically listening to an AM radio for the pththth's of a lightning strike.) I may be wrong in which case the OP needs to provide more details.
     
  14. Jul 29, 2016 #13

    anorlunda

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    I was the one who mistook lighting for lightning. Sorry.

    Google the National Lightning Detection Network. You can get their data feed in real time. Then you can compare the lightning his they report with what your detector says.

    There are also smartphone apps that show lightning hits local to you. They use data from that National Lightning Detector Network.
     
  15. Jul 29, 2016 #14

    CWatters

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    Perhaps look up "Biggg Tesla coil" on youtube.
     
  16. Aug 1, 2016 #15
    Thank you very much for your help @jambaugh
     
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