Letter | Published:

Neutron generation in lightning bolts

Nature volume 313, pages 773775 (28 February 1985) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Intense electrical discharges through polymer fibres have been shown1 to produce 2.45-MeV neutrons, probably by deuteron–deuteron fusion. Noting broad similarities between discharges in polymer fibres and natural lightning, Libby and Leukens2 have suggested that neutrons are also generated in lightning flashes, as a result of the fusion of deuterium contained in the atmospheric water vapour; by rescaling the plasma parameters of polymer fibres to those involved in natural lightning, they have predicted a yield of 1015 neutrons per lightning flash. An experiment by Fleischer3, however, using fission track detectors placed near lightning arrestors, has failed to ascertain the neutron production in lightning discharges. Based on the number of background cosmic-ray tracks accumulated in these detectors during seven months of observations, Fleischer estimated an upper limit of 2.5×1010 neutrons per lightning stroke. In our experiment, we have attempted to keep the cosmic-ray neutron background at a negligible level by searching for neutrons from individual lightning strokes, for a time-interval comparable with the duration of the lightning stroke. Here we present the first experimental evidence that neutrons are generated in lightning discharges, with 107–1010 neutrons per stroke. Whether these neutrons are thermonuclear in origin, or are generated by non-thermal processes, remains to be determined.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    , , , & Phys. Rev. Lett. 29, 568–569 (1972).

  2. 2.

    & J. geophys. Res. 78, 5902–5903 (1973).

  3. 3.

    J. geophys. Res. 80, 5005–5009 (1975).

  4. 4.

    , , & 17th Int. Cosmic Ray Conf. 4, 338–341 (1981).

  5. 5.

    , , & 16th Int. Cosmic Ray Conf. 4, 321–324 (1979).

  6. 6.

    Proc. IEEE 59, 457–462 (1971).

  7. 7.

    J. geophys. Res. 68, 1825–1833 (1963).

  8. 8.

    , , & IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci. 20, 439–445 (1973).

  9. 9.

    & J. geophys. Res. 80, 3506 (1975).

Download references

Author information

Author notes

    • C. L. Bhat

    Present address: Department of Physics, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.

Affiliations

  1. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Nuclear Research Laboratory, Zakura, Naseem Bagh, Srinagar-19006, Kashmir, India

    • G. N. Shah
    • , H. Razdan
    • , C. L. Bhat
    •  & Q. M. Ali

Authors

  1. Search for G. N. Shah in:

  2. Search for H. Razdan in:

  3. Search for C. L. Bhat in:

  4. Search for Q. M. Ali in:

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/313773a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.