According to National Geographic, lightning is an electrical discharge arising from imbalances between clouds and the ground or within the clouds themselves.
During stormy weather, different particles, including rain, snow, and ice, collide. The lower sections of the storm clouds become negatively charged while the ground and surface objects are positively charged. Consequently, that causes a current imbalance, which must be released through lightning.
Lightning strikes can be devastating to people and objects on the ground due to the high electrical currents dissipated. Scientific research has revealed that electrical currents can cause magnetic fields to develop around them. Since lightning strikes are made up of rapidly moving electric currents, their electric charges can produce a magnetic field through electromagnetism.
That brings us to one question: Can you make magnets with lightning? To answer this question, let's explore some facts below.
Are Lightning Strikes Magnetic?
Indeed, metals are excellent conductors of lightening than other types of non-metallic materials. That’s because when electrical currents flow through metals, they develop a magnetic field around them. According to Apex Magnets, the electromagnetic properties of lightning are evident in several ways. However, the two common types are electromagnetic pulses and remanent magnetization. Read on to learn more about them.
Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs)
Lightning strikes can cause electromagnetic pulses (EMPs). When ions are supercharged during a lightning strike, that can result in a short but powerful electromagnetic pulse. These EMPs become weaker as they move away from their sources.
However, if they go through a conductive material like electrical power lines, they result in a power surge. Power surges from lightning strikes can severely damage electronic devices or cause power outages. That's why most homeowners invest in surge protectors to alleviate EMP damage.
Another way through which lightning can demonstrate its magnetic qualities is by magnetizing objects. For instance, soil, rocks, and metals can get magnetized when struck by lightning.
Some scientific theories attribute lightning to the presence of lodestone naturally occurring magnetic rock). Lightening-induced remanent magnetization (LIRM) is the magnetic blueprint left on these rocks after a lightning strike.
However, paleomagnetic experts have challenges mapping the natural changes in the earth’s magnetic field whenever an area experiences lightning strikes that altered its magnetic signature.
A lightning's magnetic properties can allow researchers to determine its electrical current after a strike. The Ampere’s Law states that the magnetic field resulting from an electric current is proportional to its source. That means you can measure lightning currents using magnetic links.
The digital world is evolving fast, and almost everyone is relying on electronics. While most people view electromagnetic pulses as a possible threat, there are numerous ways to harness the power of electromagnetic pulse generated from lightning to our advantage.
What Does it Take to Turn Magnetite Rock into Lodestone?
According to Geology.com, lodestones are made of magnetite, which is typically an iron oxide mineral. Like other forms of magnetite, lodestones are hard, darker, and shiny. However, being naturally magnetized by lightning is what makes them unique rocks.
Lodestones are traditionally known from ancient times for having a magnetic effect on iron. Their name is derived from an English name meaning “Way Stone.” That’s because a sliver of iron rubbed on lodestone can also become magnetized. In turn, that’s how the first compass needle was designed. Lodestones were invaluable rocks to ancient explorers like Christopher Columbus.
For centuries, researchers wondered how these stones became magnetized. In a past publication, Dr. Peter Wasilewski, a renowned NASA scientist, suggested that lodestones came about due to lightning strikes that caused all mineral domains in the rock to align.
Initially, such domains are misaligned and cancel each other out. However, when they line up, the rock attains magnetism. That is the same thing as a tape recorder or hard disk, which depends on iron oxide particles with a magnetic field pattern altered by external forces.
Dr. Wasilewski confirmed that magnetite samples could be magnetized in a lab. However, it isn't easy to prove that it can naturally happen until a magnetite outcrop is checked for the presence of lodestones before and after it's struck by lightning. One obvious thing that supports his theory was the fact that lodestones are found in the shallow depth of the earth.
Can You Harvest Lightning Energy to Make Magnets?
The question “Can you make magnets with lightning?” can be best answered by first understanding if harvesting the lightning energy is possible. According to Howstuffworks, a single bolt of lightning consist of 5 billion joules of energy. That's enough energy to power up several households every month. Such energy can be equated to an atomic bomb. So if there are efforts underway to generate power from unlikely sources like ocean currents to promote greener earth, why not harvest energy from lightning?
Well, if you have thought about this before, you're not alone. Scientists from Alternative Energy Holdings tried to make this dream come true in 2007. They first designed a tower with grounding wires and a capacitor. However, this invention didn't succeed due to the extreme complexities involved. However, its CEO thought it was possible to pull off such a project with enough time, money, and resources.
The success of this project faces enormous logistical challenges.
First, thunderstorms are frequently occasional, and lightning always strikes randomly in different parts of the country. Furthermore, since energy demands are always steady, most people prefer dependable energy sources.
Secondly, it's pretty challenging harvesting energy that's delivered in one colossal blast within a matter of seconds. It requires high-end storage techniques and advanced AC power conversion without damaging the collection equipment.
Finally, the energy in a lightning strike tends to disperse on its way to the ground. That means the energy collection infrastructure can only capture a tiny fraction of the expected lightning potential. Consequently, that will impede the design of technologies capable of arresting lightning energy before a strike. Therefore, it would be feasible to focus on more dependable, local sources for harvesting energy.
Due to the complexities of gathering energy from lightning strikes, it would be challenging to use this energy source to make magnets. However, you can consider other naturally occurring magnetic rocks like lodestones created by lightning strikes.
If you want to make magnets, consider other methods mentioned below:
What Other Methods Can You Use to Make Magnets?
There are various ways you can make magnets at home or in a laboratory setup. However, according to a previous answer in Brainly, the three standard techniques include the single touch method, double touch method, and using an electrical current. Let's take a look at them:
The Single Touch Method
This technique is amongst the most straightforward and convenient ways to make magnets. However, it only allows you to create a small magnet with a limited magnetic field. You only require a permanent magnet, a ferromagnetic metal, and a piece of paper.
Start by placing the piece of paper on a flat surface and laying the ferromagnetic metal on top. Then proceed to rub your permanent magnet on the metallic surface. However, ensure that you rub your magnet in a unidirectional manner. Additionally, make sure you lift the magnet from the object after each swipe. Continue with this routine at least fifty times.
Correctly doing the whole process will convert the ferromagnetic object into a temporary magnet. You can increase the power of your temporary magnet by increasing the number of times you rub your permanent magnet over it.
The Double Touch Method
This technique is pretty similar to the first one. However, a couple of permanent magnets are required to magnetize the ferrous metal. Besides, it would be best if you rubbed the permanent magnets repeatedly in opposite directions. Repeat the same process at least fifty times to magnetize the ferromagnetic object.
The Electric Current Method
You can also create an electromagnet using a ferromagnetic object, copper wire, and a battery. Most importantly, opt for a D-Cell for safety purposes. If you choose an iron nail as your ferromagnetic object, wrap your copper wire and coil it tightly around the object at least ten times.
Leave the copper wire ends to hang freely. Proceed to connect the copper wire's lower end to the battery's negative terminal and the upper end to the positive terminal. Temporary magnetism will be induced on the ferromagnetic object for a while after disconnecting from the battery. You can use paper clips or lighter pins to test for magnetism.
Electromagnetism is a concept that’s widely used in many industrial and commercial setups. For example, most cranes in salvage yards rely on electromagnetic power to lift metallic objects.
Have you been asking yourself if you can make magnets using lightning? Well, you are not alone! We hope this article sheds more light on this matter to provide more meaningful answers to help you understand what it takes to tap into lightning energy and its relationship with magnetic energy. Since harvesting energy from lightning can be a complicated process, it's better to consider other dependable energy sources, like electricity, to make your magnets.