Sometimes our dependency on battery-charging devices seems ironic, considering the abundance of energy around us that is being generated every day by sources as mundane as the human hand, footsteps, and lightning, which strikes the Earth dozens of times per second. (See related photos: “Immense, Elusive Energy in the Forces of Nature.”)

A typical lightning bolt produces between 1,000 and 5,000 megajoules of energy, enough to power a car for about 180 to 910  miles (290 to 1,450 kilometers), and certainly enough to charge a cell phone, if you happen to be standing near a bolt and a transformer that can regulate the voltage. Scientists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom recently succeeded in simulating just such a scenario, prompted by phone maker Nokia.

Reproducing the electrical conditions of lightning, researchers at the Tony Davies High Voltage Laboratory ran 200,000 volts through a transformer, charging a Nokia Lumia 925 phone within seconds. The experiment, while fun to watch and a nice plug for Nokia, might prompt one to wonder what the point is, as most of us have other concerns when when we are in very close proximity to lightning, such as avoiding electrocution. (See related photos: “Nature Yields New Ideas for Energy and Efficiency.”)

Nokia is careful to note that they “obviously aren’t recommending people try this experiment at home.” Instead, the company views the research as an avenue toward innovation in wireless charging.

“This discovery proves that the device can be charged with a current that passes through the air, and is a huge step towards understanding a natural power like lightning and harnessing its energy,” said the lab’s Neil Palmer in a release.

Indeed, other companies are actively researching the potential of wireless charging. WiTricity, a company based near Boston,  is working on a system that could conduct electricity from walls and carpets through the air, allowing devices to draw power without wires. The technology is also being tested on electric cars, which could charge when parked on pads that transmit power to coils in the vehicle. (See related story: “Wireless Power May Cut the Cord for Plug-In Devices, Including Cars.”)

You can see Nokia’s video about the project here:



  1. DeadIce
    United states
    November 6, 2013, 5:11 pm

    Would be neat if we can use lightning to power our homes instead of being dependent on pg&e or other utility companies.

  2. Lil bit
    October 29, 2013, 7:19 am

    Lightning doesn’t pass through the air, please don’t use so degenerative language. Lightning is conducted through plasma, that is air ionized by the difference in charges, through the step leader process. Ionizing frees the electrons and free electrons are excelling conductors, unlike air, which is an excellent insulator.

  3. nifemi
    October 19, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Wow this is a hulge step towards technology I pray that they get successful with it

  4. Kai S. Lee
    October 17, 2013, 10:09 pm

    Oh, the ideas people get, i actually wanted to try something like this too. But I never get the chance. Or even GOT the chance.

  5. frank Jersawitz
    United States
    October 12, 2013, 3:16 pm

    It was Nikola Tesla’s plan to use free electricity from cosmic sources to power the world but JP Morgan and his rich friends had “better” ideas, to enslave us to energy generated by oil and gas that they could charge us for.

  6. Umm
    October 11, 2013, 11:40 am

    If we can make lightning.. and “A typical lightning bolt produces between 1,000 and 5,000 megajoules of energy, enough to power a car for about 180 to 910 miles”.. then why aren’t cars lightning-powered?? How hard would it be to combine the two? What are they waiting for? And why aren’t all car manufacturers incorporating flush-fitted solar panels into their roofs, bonnets/hoods and boots/trunks??

  7. El Gabilon
    October 4, 2013, 7:28 pm

    An interesting experiment but one that is not cost effective. It took 200,000 generated volts to produce the small amount of energy for a cell phone. How cost effective would it be to charge a series of 12 volt batteries all at once that equaled the 200,000 volts or a 120 volt battery that would provide enough current for one month in an average home. Where lightning is proflic we could then extend a lightning rod to capture a bolt of lightning sending it through a transformer to charge the battery and any excessive electricity on to the grid creating an income for the home owner!

  8. New Yorker
    New York, USA
    October 1, 2013, 4:41 pm

    That is nice. I never felt that Benjamin Franklin was able to finish his work on electricity–that instead he meant to create a generator for storage as well as creation of lightening (really lasers) for an environmentally-friendly technology. The non-environmentally friendly wires and wireless technology and fiber optics on the ocean floor were not part of his plan–he had a much bigger mind than that…