Physics Questions People Ask Fermilab

Lightning as an accelerator, Part 2.

Dear Mr. Foster
My name is Ryan Allen McCormac and while doing research on a school project, I happend to see your Q&A sight (I was very impressed by the ten year old with the new accelerator idea!). I wanted to inform you though that there has actually been research done in using lightning as a voltage source.

"These experiments were conducted in 1932 by Brasch and Lange. For there experiment they stretched an insulated cable across a valley between two peaks in the Alps; from this cable a conducting cable supporting a terminal was suspended. During thunderstorms high potentials would develop between this terminal and a grounded terminal on the valley floor; sparks several hundred feet long were obtained. Plans had been made to install a discharge tube for the acceleration of particles, but experiments were abandoned when Lange was killed." (Livingston and Blewett, Particle Accelerators, p.22)

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