Learning About Lightning

Learning About Lightning

Grose, Thomas K


CALL HIM DR. LIGHTNING. Greg Leyh, an electrical engineer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California, wants to build the world’s largest generator of deliberately created lightning. He heads Lightning on Demand (LOD), an ad hoc group of engineers, scientists and artists that wants to build the Nevada Lightning Lab in a remote part of southern Nevada. How lightning actually streaks through the air still puzzles scientists. The Nevada lab would be large enough to more properly research the phenomenon. Central to the lab would be two 122-foot-tall outdoor towers, topped with Tesla coils, standing 250 feet apart from each other-that amount of space, coupled with high voltages, would allow for realistic recreations of lightning. It could also produce continuous discharges, easier to monitor than the individual, fast strikes of the real thing. The lab could be used to test the ability of aircraft to withstand lightning and be an education center for lightning safety-which would also be a means of bringing in tourists. Leyh’s group must still raise nearly $9 million to build the lab, not including buying the necessary land. LOD admits that’s a “monumental task,” but it’s readying a scale model prototype to use for fundraising demonstrations, in hopes of sparking some much-needed interest.-TG

Above: electrical storm in Arizona.

Left: Greg Leyh inside electrode in test of Tesla colis.


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