Friday, January 26, 2007

Ball Lightning Made in a Brazilian Lab

A group of physicists in Brazil have managed to create luminous balls of burning silicon that behave much as ball lightning has been reported to behave.

Click the photo to see a brief video of artificial ball lightning.

Although the glowing balls fall to the floor rather than floating, as ball lightning reputably does sometimes, the hot blobs duplicate other typical phenomena such as

- Following erratic paths, randomly speeding up or slowing down

- Breaking into smaller balls

- Bouncing off of the ground and obstructions

- Scorching cloth and other objects they contact

The researchers, who hail from the Universidad Federal de Pernambuco and the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, created the artificial ball lighting by touching an electrode to a wafer of pure silicon and heating it with a high electrical current. When they pulled the electrode away from the wafer, it created an arc that spewed out a cascade of burning silicon blobs roughly once in every thirty attempts.

The experiment may confirm the hypothesis that ball lightning forms when normal lightning vaporizes silicon out soil, wood, metals or plastics. Theoretically, the vaporized silicon forms a cloud of nanometer-sized particles that glows as it oxidizes in the atmosphere.

Although the artificial variety is too dense to float, the researchers plan to test whether varying conditions lead to buoyant ball lightning. They are also checking to see if winds or electric fields that may accompany lightning strikes could carry the glowing balls through the air.

The work was reported this week in the journal American Physical Society journal Physical Review letters.


  1. I thought your readers would be interested in looking at these energy technologies one of which, EPS, has a theoretic base for ball lighting.

    Aneutronic Fusion: Here I am not talking about the big science ITER project taking thirty years, but the several small alternative plasma fusion efforts.

    There are three companies pursuing hydrogen-boron plasma toroid fusion, Paul Koloc, Prometheus II, Eric Lerner, Focus Fusion and Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems (EPS)

    Vincent Page (a technology officer at GE!!) gave a presentation at the 05 6th symposium on current trends in international fusion research , which high lights the need to fully fund three different approaches to P-B11 fusion

    He quotes costs and time to development of P-B11 Fusion as tens of million $, and years verses the many decades and ten Billion plus $ projected for ITER and other "Big" science efforts

    EPS also provides a theoretic base for ball lighting : Ball Lightning Explained as a Stable Plasma Toroid
    The theoretic's are all there in peer reviewed papers. It does sound to good to be true however with names like MIT, Delphi, STTR grants, NIST grants , etc., popping up all over, I have to keep investigating.

    Recent support has also come from one of the top lightning researcher in the world, Joe Dwyer at FIT, when he got his Y-ray and X-ray research published in the May issue of Scientific American,
    Dwyer's paper:

    and according to Clint Seward it supports his lightning models and fusion work at Electron Power Systems

    Erich J. Knight

  2. Call me a sissy, but I'd wear real shoes around a ball of lightning...

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