Question: So lately I've been thinking a lot about harnessing energy (I've been watching Star Trek and Star Wars all about hyper speed and stuff) Now a typical lightning strike has almost 1 billion volts of power. So we all know how lightning is created mostly by electrostatic discharge and stuff. Recently I have found this supposedly mythological wonder known as ball lightning. Now ball lightning is supposed to be fake, but lately I've been thinking that if we can discover a new way to harness the energy into a ball like substance (somewhat like Dragonball Z). If we could find this way to harness it the possibilities are endless!!!! It would solve a lot of worlds problems. As Lightning is an infinite resource we would no longer have to rely on fossil fuels. We could also invent so many new things!!! New rockets, Cars, Trains, Boats and so much more!!! So I guess my question is, ball lightning how do we make it happen?!?!

  1. Hey mattscientist, you’re definitely gonna be a scientist, you sure think like one! Sweet question! Ball lightning is a real thing, it’s just that scientists still don’t know a whole lot about it. Scientists have managed to make what they think is ball lightning happen in a lab, but they’re not 100% sure if it’s the same thing. Assuming that it is, this means that in theory we could already do what you are suggesting!

    Unfortunately, the 1 billion joules of energy that lightning bolts have isn’t all that much! In fact, if you could harness every bit of energy from very single lightning bolt that hit the entire world in a whole year, it would only make enough energy to power 1 million houses. There are 8 million houses in Australia! This is partly because lightning happens so fast, the energy isn’t sustained and ends up not being all that much.

    So, even if we could make bal lightning, or harness all the lightning in the world, it wouldn’t really be worth it. There are much better types of energy production out there that ar emuch more efficient!


  2. MATT DUDE!!! 😀 just reading the “So lately part” of your question I knew straight away that it was one of your questions! I’m loving that you are thinking outside the box and I hate to break it to you buddy but I think Sam is right! All the energy that is generated by lightening really isn’t all that much. So wouldn’t really be worth it. There is another form of energy that I am interested in, want to hear about it? …….
    BIOFUEL! OH YEA! So the way it works is that you take a whole heap of sugar rich trash, organic matter and you get yourself a bacteria community that is able to degrade this sugar rich waste. The idea is that we can use this set up in two ways:
    1. Biofuel cell: you have a whole bunch of bacteria in this system and as they are degrading the waste, they generate electricity and we can harvest that electricity. This is already established but the system needs optimizing.
    2. Harvesting Biohydrogen: As the bacteria break down the sugar rich waste, a bi-product that is produced is biohydrogen. We can ultimately harvest the biohydrogen. Biohydrogen is an epic energy source, a force to be reckoned with! Key thing here is, that some bacteria produce heaps BioH2 but there are those that also consume it, we have to find the good producers!

    This was the research I was involved in 4 years ago, I reckon this is where you and I should put our heads together! Any ideas? 😉


  3. Hey Mattscientist!

    Like the others said, properly awesome question. : ) Kind of thing that shows you’re thinking really hard and have a creative mind… perfect ingredients for being a mad scientist!

    I will add in another futuristic source of fuel to the conversation…

    Under the Earth’s crust, it’s really darn hot! Lots of heat energy stored down there… So people drill down into the heat and use that energy to turn their turbines and generate electricity. It’s not 100% great for the environment, still releases emissions, but a lot less than burning fossil fuels!

    But I guess you couldn’t make that portable… I would say that the rockets of the future will be powered by super efficient nuclear reactors! Or maybe solar sails…