I've been reading about fusion recently (Specifically Deuterium fusion) and a friend of mine asked me if it was possible to fuse two Deuterium atoms with a lightning strike? Now this question has a whole bunch of assumptions, for one it assumes you have the capability to translate the entire energy of a lightning bolt into two Deuterium atoms, and be able to do so without breaking anything.

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    $\begingroup$ Lightning is a fairly benign gas discharge that does not produce the necessary temperatures and densities to cause fusion on a technically useful scale. Can it produce small numbers of fusion reactions? Undoubtedly, but then, so can many commercially available portable neutron generators. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Oct 30, 2015 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ If you could capture the bolt in a bottle (hey, there's a song there somewhere), and then generate a high-strength electric field to accelerate an atom, maybe. But it'll take a lot of unobtanium to build the apparatus. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2015 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ In general, there is a lot of energy in Nature around us (in a thunderstorm, in high-atmosphere cosmic rays, etc) and alot more in the cosmos. Which should make people more modest, or at least less fearing, about the energy level of human technologies (despite the marketing + fearmongering). Still, occurrence in Nature is generally poorly predictable (place+time), controlable, and usable for CERN-like experiments as for energy production. NB: I guess that statistically, fusion of 2 atoms might spontaneously happen "from time to time" in a saucepan (not strickly-zero probability). So what ? :-) $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2015 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


The presence of gamma rays and positrons associated with lightning strikes suggests that the strikes are capable of accelerating particles with enough energy for D-H or D-D fusion. However I'd expect that even in a pure deuterium atmosphere the energy released by D-D fusion would be negligible compared to the energy released in the lightning strike itself.

  • $\begingroup$ Also the positron emissions ... $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Nov 1, 2015 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ More to the point, I'd expect less fusion than positron creation, and the positron creation is so feeble that it was only recently discovered. $\endgroup$
    – rob
    Nov 2, 2015 at 23:59

Lightning can build up free neutrons by bolting electrons into bare protons and by free neutrons hitting bare protons.

Neutrally charged free neutrons easily get close to bare protons whereby they fuse into deuterium nuclei (a proton bound with a neutron).

Lightning can bolt deuterium nuclei transversely (side by side), and also have electrons in their protons at the same time, even though they are in them for only 10** (-23) second, cancelling their positive charges (their Coulomb forces of electrostatic repulsion) keeping them apart.

The magnetic attractions of deuterium nuclei bolting transversely through a channel of lightning is proportional to their velocities.

As Argonne National Laboratory nuclear physicist Dr. Donald Geesaman wrote:

If you want two deuterons to fuse every time they get near each other, then they have to approach to within ~6 x 10**(-13) cm.

That energy for two deuterons is 1.44 MeV/fm divided by 6 fm = 0.24 MeV.

The energy for a proton and a deuteron is similar because they are all charge 1.

The ultimate likelihood of such a reaction occurring then depends on the energy, the density of atoms, and how they are confined.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome on Physics SE and thank you for the answer :) You might like our help on mathematical notation and if you quote someone, it would be nice to provide an exact source :) $\endgroup$
    – Sanya
    Jan 1, 2017 at 10:04

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