PORTLAND, Ore. -- Ball lightning has puzzled scientists for centuries. These orbs of electrical charge bounce like balls, squeeze under doors then reform into orbs, and sometimes even float in mid-air. Now, a Ukrainian scientist claims to have solved the mystery of ball lightning—it is, he said, an aerosol of nanoscale batteries short-circuited by surface discharge to spontaneously generate mega-amperes of current.
Oleg Meshcheryakov, general director of Wing Ltd. Company (Odessa, Ukraine), said that ball lightning can be explained as the "process of electrochemical oxidation and combustion of atmospheric aerosol particles. Aerosol nano-batteries exposed to a powerful magnetic dipole"dipole attraction [form into balls]."
According to Meshcheryakov, these nano-batteries consist of an aerosol form of a reductant, an oxidizer and an electrolyte. Normal lightning strikes stir up unoxidized substances commonly available in the environment, becoming the reductants of these aerosol nano-batteries. Meshcheryakov claimed that ball lightning consists of a cloud of thousands of such composite particles, ranging in from 5 to 100 nanometers in diameter. Each particle spontaneously forms a nano-battery, which is then short-circuited by surface discharge.
These composite nanoscale particles—-each, actually, a tiny battery--form independent current loops that become short-circuited by short-term surface discharge. The thermal energy produced by each nano-battery causes a mutual repulsion of these particles over short distances, preventing their aggregation. Mutual magnetic dipole"dipole attraction--a result of electrochemical oxidation within each aerosol particle--forms the aerosol into balls.
Meshcheryakov noted that currents discharged in the range of thousands, or even millions, of amperes--generated by the reduction"oxidation reactions of all the aerosol particles in the ball--explain both the magnetic attraction forming the ball and the memorable electromagnetic effects often cited by observers of ball lightning.
Read Meshcheryakov's detailed explanation of ball lightning online.