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Lightning Study by Electrons


Study of Lightning Governed by Relativistic Runaway Electrons.

Tech Area / Field

  • PHY-OTH/Other/Physics

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Kulikov G G

Leading Institute
VNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov

Supporting institutes

  • FIAN Lebedev, Russia, Moscow


  • Los-Alamos National Laboratory, USA, NM, Los-Alamos

Project summary

The goal of the project is to test the mechanism of lightning governed by the avalanching of relativistic runaway electrons. Theoretical ideas are supposed to be developed on the nature of upward lightning and on the accompanying electromagnetic phenomena and pulses of penetrating radiation. The experiment should allow for to obtain data on the mechanism of the breakdown in the air, governed by relativistic runaway electrons of megavolt energy range, and on secondary processes, occurred in the resulting air plasma.

The following activity is supposed:

(a) to develop a self-confident computer model of the electrical breakdown of the air in the thunderstorm electric field, governed by avalanching of relativistic runaway electrons, and perform calculations with the aim to confirm the GMD hypothesis on the lightning onset mechanism;

(b) to carry out laboratory experiments to study the breakdown in the air, governed by relativistic runaway electrons.

(c) to carry out self-confident calculation, develop a technical project and carry out on-ground testing of magneto-explosive accelerator intended for the flight experiment to test the GMD hypothesis. Activities, which are supposed to be performed in the framework of the present project, will result in the better understanding of the lightning nature, and especially of gigantic upward discharges.

Technical approach.

To realize the program it is supposed to use the broad experience, accumulated by researchers from VNIIEF and Lebedev Physical Institute on the physics and technique of electron accelerators; on plasma physics; on discharges in the air, governed by runaway electrons; the achievements of the researchers on the theory and computer simulation of plasma and discharges; computer methods to calculate MCGs; "know how" on magneto-explosive accelerators and broad experience to elaborate and carry out field experiments with them. Experimental researches are supposed to be executed on lab-scale sets of VNIIEF and Lebedev Physical Institute. Elaboration of the flight magneto-explosive accelerator is supposed to be performed on the basis of the data, obtained earlier in VNIIEF. Computer simulations of the problems, incorporated in the project, are supposed to be realized on PC on the basis of Boltzmann kinetic equation, equations for moment of the electron distribution function, Monte-Carlo method, telegraph equations and equations of the Magnetic hydrodynamics.


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