A simple way to get ball lightning in the lab

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Modern science has not come to an unambiguous opinion about the nature of ball lightning and the mechanisms of its occurrence. According to estimates of some researchers (Yu. Ratis, 2006), 5 or more new theories arise on this issue per year. A brief review of these theories will be presented in the separate post.

In this post, we will focus on the model of ball lightning generation (G. Shabanov, 2019), which makes it possible to fairly simply describe this process and use simple means to reproduce it under even an amateur physical laboratory.

The process of nucleation of ball lightning, as well as ordinary linear lightning, begins with the formation of the so-called leader – the terminal part of the plasma channel formed in the clouds as a result of impact ionization of air and water vapor.

In the event that the main lightning discharge (occurring along the path of the plasma channel described above) has not occurred, the formation of ball lightning begins. A charge continues to be pumped into the leader’s head, and the leader’s head increases in diameter. At the same time, the formation of the shell of the future ball lightning occurs. Then, when the pressure of the uncompensated charge injected into the leader’s head is balanced by the pressure of the ball lightning shell, the charge is stopped, the leader’s plasma channel is absorbed and the ball lightning is finally formed.

The model of the leader of linear lightning and its head part, obtained as a result of my experiments, is presented in the photo:

1 – the plasma channel of the leader model, 2 – the head of the leader model

1 – the plasma channel of the leader model in the initial phase of resorption; 2 – the head part of the leader model – the initial phase of separation and formation of ball lightning

The presented model makes it possible to assemble a rather simple setup that allows one to obtain with good reproducibility artificial ball lightnings with a diameter of about 4 cm and lifetime of 0.1 to 0.5 s.

On this diagram are indicated: A – charger, consisting of a laboratory autotransformer and a voltage multiplier, including four capacitors and four diodes; U is the multimeter for control the charging of capacitive storage B; C is the the choke  which forms an electric pulse ; D – discharger; 1- plastic container; 2 – the anode, which is a stainless steel disc with a hole in the middle; 3 – an insulating tube made of quartz glass; 4 – cathode made of copper, steel or graphite.

The generation of ball lightning occurs in the following order:

  • using the charging unit A, the capacitive storage device B is charged to the specified voltage (in the present work, at least 600 V);
  • the charging unit is disconnected from the capacitive storage, the contacts of discharger D shorts;
  • between the anode 2 and cathode 4 occurs an electric discharge, leading to the generation of ball lightning.

The practical implementation of the described methodology was performed using an experimental device, the appearance of which is shown in the photo:


An interested reader can familiarize with detailed recommendations on creating such a device and experimental techniques by clicking on this link.

In conclusion, we present several photographs obtained by frame-by-frame sampling from a video recording of an experiment on the generation of artificial ball lightning. Video recording was carried out by four video recorders located on different sides of the generated object.

First stage of discharge….

Second stage, the ball lightning is forming

And here it is – the ball lightning

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My name is Dmitry, I am a physicist from Russia. For the past 10 years, I have been doing unconventional physical research. I plan to introduce readers to some of the results of my own work, as well as the results of some experiments and the original physical theories of some of my colleagues. By presenting this blog to an international audience, I expect to meet interested readers and like-minded people.

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