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A billion volts at any current to speak of is going to be a challenge.I reckon you could just send someone the electricity bill and see if they have a heart attack.
Brilliant answer BC! Particularly now the energy companies have announced a 10% price hike...
What if you took 100 million car batteries (or ½ billion 2.1V cells), and lined them all up in series. Each one would hardly experience more than the rated voltage.But, the voltage from the first to the last battery would be 1 billion volts.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning<<An average bolt of negative lightning carries an electric current of about 30,000 to 100,000 amperes (30-100 kA) at a voltage of over a billion volts....The average peak power output of a single lightning stroke is about one trillion watts — one terawatt (1012 W), and the stroke lasts for about 30 to 90 microseconds.>>1012 W * 90 microseconds = 9*107 J == 25 kWh ~= 5€ (average price now in Italy).
From CliffordK:QuoteWhat if you took 100 million car batteries (or ½ billion 2.1V cells), and lined them all up in series. Each one would hardly experience more than the rated voltage.But, the voltage from the first to the last battery would be 1 billion volts.That is quite right, Clifford. But you would have to line them up end-to-end. And even then, when you connected in your 10 millionth battery you would complete a circuit, losing power via the air gap from terminal to ground of the first battery, passage through the earth, and ground to terminal of the 10 millionth battery. An actual arc is unlikely because the ground would have a significant resistance, but there would certainly be a steady draw of power from the system, accompanied by "buzzing" in the atmospheric parts of the circuit.
Lightning is a voltage that is not as high as most think. That was Benjamin Franklin's claim to fame. Benjamin Franklin submitted papers based on his experiments in his basement, and called them the sameness of static electricity, and lightning. He did experiments with a copper wire from the roof of his house on a hilltop, to a iron ball. He had a second iron ball, that was grounded to earth. In the middle he had another iron ball, that he connected to an air condenser. Two pieces of copper sheet metal rolled into circles. One a slightly larger diameter then the other. He suspended those from the wooden rafters with silk threads, with a space between them. Making a sort of torus shape. He would charge the condenser during a lightning storm, and he found that, the condenser could reach a voltage that would stop the lightning form jumping anywhere. If he removed the iron ball that was connected to the air capacitor, the lightning would jump a foot to the other ball. Liberating UV and very bright light, along with a thunderous crack. In order to stop electricity, like a switch in your house does, you have to create, a ramping of voltage through air. Benjamin Franklin was able to stop, lightning with about 30,000 volts of static electricity. Meaning the lightning could be much higher in voltage, then 30,000 volts. A light switch, an air capacitor, stops 120 volt or 240 volt current, from flowing to another terminal, with under a volt, at ten million ohms to ground, or grounded by ten million ohms. Electricity from an ARC is different then regular electricity. You can watch the ARC leave a cloud and make strange meandering turns. That is not how electricity flows naturally. Naturally electricity is very straight and very, fast. You would not be able to trace its path. Like you can the path of a lighting bolt. My point being that the voltage in lightning might be guesstimates of the actuality. It is hard to measure the voltage of lightning, because it can deliver so many amps. Sincerely, William McCormick
What if you took 100 million car batteries (or ½ billion 2.1V cells), and lined them all up in series.
There are a few problems tied up in this: The first and most important is that this particular article is flagged, awaiting a rewrite, and serious attention from an expert -- meteorologist or atmospheric physicist. As a general point it is important to take good note of these flags on wikipedia articles; in recent years the general quality of wikipedia has improved from mediocre to fairly authoritative, and it has been quite a remarkable success story. However, there is no indication in the discussion that any of the part that Lightarrow has quoted is under challenge.The second is about a misapprehension that is easily reached. I think that it might be the same point that William was trying to make. It is very easy to overestimate the energy that is involved with a lightning stroke.You cannot say 1 billion volt potential difference and 50 kA current means 50 TW power, or even 50 TW peak power (obtained by multiplying the two together, in the usual way). The 1 billion volt is what is required to cause breakdown of an air column between cloud and ground, and strike an arc; the potential difference will fall rapidly once this has been achieved and there is current flow along the arc, and the effective potential difference at peak current flow will be much lower. The wikipedia estimate of 1 TW is probably about right, although I did not see any external justification of it.The last point is that if you want to do a "back of envelope" calculation, you do not assume that the peak power is operating throughout the longest estimate of duration. You take a mid range estimate of duration -- 60 µs in this case -- and you assume a triangular power dissipation profile rather than a square wave one, i.e. _/\_This would lead in this case to an estimate of 30 MJ energy, or 1.5 euro.There are a lot of complications associated with transient electricity that invalidate calculations that we use for steady state DC or AC circuitry. I simply do not know if any of them intrude here.
So if at millions of volts the atmosphere breaks down into plasma, what happens at billions of volts?Is lightning kinetic or potential energy?When a lightning bolt is going to strike a spot the air becomes ionized (charged) correct?If this many volts where to cascade into the earth would it super heat the moisture within the ground and cause an explosion, similar to an oak tree?Would a billion volts have any effect on the ocean?Would producing this much electricity within an open atmosphere cause any large butterfly effect?Such as the splitting of oxygen into O3? Or is it not split, but fused?