Using the sky and ground as a battery

Since there is a voltage difference between the ground and sky, shouldn't I theoretically be able to light a bulb by connecting one terminal to the ground and raising the other one to the sky (via a very, very long wire)?

1 Answer

You'd need a very big electrode, and you'd need extreme power conversion. The voltage is typically 100 kV per km altitude, but only 2 pA current per square meter. Way too much voltage, and way, way too little current to light a bulb.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_electricity#Description

• Doesn't lightning have a lot more current than that? Also, my understanding is that P=IV, so if there is ton of voltage, shouldn't there be a proportionally high amount of current? Unless the resistance between the ground and the sky is that much. May 10 at 1:21
• Is that current through the atmosphere? Why woild it be relevant to the current through a wire? May 10 at 2:28
• If you search up the current in a lightning strike, you get 30,000 A. If that much current can build up during this strike, why not through a wire? May 10 at 4:39
• @Undefined because lighting only occurs when clouds (or in rare cases blobs of unusual atmosphere) collect a shitton of charge. That is nothing like the normal atmospheric situation JDoty presented here. May 10 at 12:55
• However, when you get near a high-tension power line, both E-field strength and available current are large enough to light a bulb -- "fun experiment" :-) May 10 at 12:56