People don’t normally think about lightning when they’re thinking about electricity. But lightning is a frighteningly common example of electrical power, which you may experience one day if you live in the right place. Lightning has several properties that are different from any other type of electrical current. How much voltage does lightning have? How many amps are in a lightning bolt?
If you know anything about electricity, then you probably know that volts measure potential energy and amps measure current or how quickly electrons are moving. Lightning is essentially a very strong discharge of static electricity between clouds and the ground.
The energy released during a lightning bolt can be as high as 100 billion volts, which is much more than what we can produce artificially with static machines or batteries. On the other hand, the current in a lightning bolt is approximately 30 million amps — 30 times smaller than what Tesla’s artificial lighting could create!
How Much Voltage in a Lightning Bolt?
The voltage in a lightning bolt is 100 billion volts, which is an extremely high amount of voltage. That’s 10 million times more voltage than a standard household appliance uses. Even the strongest artificial electrical currents are much weaker than lightning, usually in the range of a few thousand volts. The high voltage of lightning comes from the huge amount of charge created in one short moment.
Imagine a cloud of negatively charged particles and a ground of positively charged particles. When they come close enough together, a spark jumps across the gap, causing a huge flow of current in both directions. The charged particles of the cloud and ground are separated by only a few inches, but the current flowing between them is thousands of miles long. The circuit goes from the ground up to the cloud and back to the ground again.
How Many Amps in a Lightning Bolt?
The current in a lightning bolt is only 30 million amps, which is thousands of times less than what is normally produced artificially with electrical machines. The enormous voltage of lightning is not matched by an equally large current. This is because the resistance of air greatly slows the flow of electrons, causing the current to drop.
The resistance of air is thousands of times greater than the resistance of a wire, so the current in a lightning bolt is thousands of times smaller than the current in a wire.
What is the Difference Between Amps and Volts?
When we talk about electricity, we often talk about voltage and current. But what exactly are they and how do they relate to each other? Voltage is the potential energy per unit charge. Amps are the amount of current flowing through something. They’re usually measured in units called “amps” because a charge moving through a circuit is usually very, very small.
If, for example, there are 1,000 amps flowing through a wire, and that wire has a resistance of 1 ohm, then there is a voltage across the wire of 1 volt. If there are 2,000 amps flowing through the wire, then the voltage across it is 2 volts.
Why Is There So Much Difference Between Lightening and Household Current?
The difference between the two is due to the fact that lightning is a direct current, while household current is an alternating current. Direct current, which is another name for a constant flow of current in one direction, never changes.
Alternating current, however, changes direction at regular intervals, with voltage and current reaching peak values and then decreasing to zero again before increasing to their peak values again, and so on.
If you were to measure the current in lightning, it would be a completely steady flow of electrons from the clouds to the ground and back again. The current in household current, however, is not steady.
In an alternating current, the voltage will rise to a peak at one instant, fall to a low point at the next instant, then rise again, fall again, and so on. The current in an alternating current is constantly varying, with the amount of current peaking at each peak of voltage and falling to zero again at each low point of voltage.
A lightning bolt is a frighteningly common example of electrical power. It has several properties that are different from any other type of electrical current. The voltage in a lightning bolt is 100 billion volts, which is 10 million times more voltage than a standard household appliance uses. The current in a lightning bolt is only 30 million amps, thousands of times less than what is normally produced artificially with electrical machines.
The difference between the two is due to the fact that lightning is a direct current, while household current is an alternating current. Keep these facts in mind if you ever feel the ground rumble and hear thunder in the distance. While you can’t control whether or not it’s going to rain, you can take some basic steps to protect yourself from lightning.