I know this sounds absurd, but after doing a little research I found that it may be possible (not entirely, but that is why I am asking about this here). I have been reading up on antimatter and quantum mechanics and I stumbled across this article on the subject of "creating antimatter with lightning". All lightning is is a stream of electrons travelling through a channel of ionised air. This is true of any electrical "arc". This brings me to my question. There is a trick which you can do with plasma globes (you can probably pick one up at a toy store quite easily), where you place a piece of aluminium foil on the top of the globe which attracts a stream of electrons via parasitic capacitance the the environment. However, I have put together a specialised spark-gap chamber which consists of two metal rods with sharp points ~0.2mm apart so that an arc jumps the gap. I attached a wire from the aluminium foil on the plasma globe to one of the electrodes, and I connected the other to ground. When I switched on the plasma globe, as expected, a small arc jumped the gap.

This experiment, while much less powerful (about 900,000 times less powerful) than lightning, does simulate it to some degree (with a constant flow of electrons with AC current instead of a small pulse of electrons with pulse current).

So if lightning can emit antiprotons and positrons, can my setup do the same?


1 Answer 1


Lightning producing postitrons, i.e. the antiparticle of the electron can be seen here

In a collaborative study appearing in Nature, researchers from Japan describe how gamma rays from lightning react with the air to produce radioisotopes and even positrons—the antimatter equivalent of electrons.


The gamma rays emitted in lightning have enough energy to knock a neutron out of atmospheric nitrogen,


The final, prolonged emission was from the breakdown of now neutron-poor and unstable nitrogen atoms. These released positrons, which subsequently collided with electrons in annihilation events releasing gamma rays.

So it is not exactly pair creation. The energy of a lightning bolt is very large and gammas produced in order to create pairs of electron positrons would have to be at least 1MeV in energy.

The sparks in a spark gap in the lab do not have enough energy to generate gamma rays.

  • $\begingroup$ Thankyou very much for your help. Have you got any ideas on how I could create 1MeV of energy (sorry if it's a silly question)? EDIT: 1MeV seems quite small, because my desktop lamp can output up to 3.745x10^20 eV (60W bulb), are you sure my spark gap cannot output 1MeV? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ @sciencepiofficial One million volts is not "quite small"! You can make high voltage in various ways, eg a Tesla coil. But please be careful. As well as the hazards of high voltage, you need to make sure you aren't exposing yourself to unhealthy amounts of X-rays / gamma rays. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Thankyou for your concern, very much appreciated, however, in your answer you wrote 1 MeV (megaelectronvolt) not 1 Mv (megavolt). I will be sure to construct a lead container to do these experiments in future. Also, I have a tesla coil, but its just a slayer exciter sadly, and the impedance of the wire loads the voltage significantly. Perhaps I could attempt a van de graaf machine. Thanks again for your help, best wishes. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ An electron volt is just the energy it takes to move an electron through a potential difference of 1 volt. To give an electron 1 MeV of energy you must have a pd of 1 million volts. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ @sciencepiofficial the energy of a bit higher than 1 MeV has to be the energy of one gamma-ray/photon in order to have electron positron creation . en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pair_production .The wats of your lamp are distributed among zillions of photons, because light emerges from the superposition of them. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 11:33

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