An Example Of A Natural Capacitor
Clouds and the ground can act in unison to mimic a huge natural capacitor. The process of evaporation and condensation of atmospheric water within clouds causes water droplets to collide with dust, ionizing radiation, and each other.
These collisions cause electrons to be knocked off the particles creating a charge separation in the clouds. Negative electrical charges accumulate at the base of clouds. The base of the clouds can be compared to a negative plate of a capacitor. These charges induce positive charges to accumulate in the ground, comparable to the positive plate of a capacitor. The air between the clouds and ground becomes the dielectric of this natural capacitor. The electrostatic field between the clouds and the ground can produce ions and free electrons in the air. Eventually the difference in potential between the clouds and the ground can become so great that the air dielectric begins to break down. The ions and free electrons provide the necessary path that short-circuits this natural capacitor, initiating a flash of lightning.
BACK TO ELECTRICITY & MAGNETISM TUTORIALS
Questions or comments? Send us an email.
© 1995-2019 by
Michael W. Davidson
and The Florida State University.
All Rights Reserved. No images, graphics, software, scripts, or applets may be reproduced or used in any manner without permission from the copyright holders. Use of this website means you agree to all of the Legal Terms and Conditions set forth by the owners.
This website is maintained by our
Graphics & Web Programming Team
in collaboration with Optical Microscopy at the
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
Last Modification: Wednesday, Mar 22, 2017 at 10:31 AM
Access Count Since July 9, 1999: 305899