Ball Lightning as Supercooled Plasma Condensed Phase

Manykin E.A.

RRC "Kurchatov Institute"

Norman G.E.

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

It is shown that hypotheses [1,2] and [3-6] are complementary ones and can be joined in one hypothesis which elucidate the numerous eyewitness evidences that ball lightning (BL) temperature is about 300K and BL has a clear surface resembling the surface of a certain phase.

1. Ball Lightning as Supercooled Metastable Nonideal Plasma.

The idea about plasma phase transition [7] was the starting point for the hypothesis [1,2]. The phase transition possibility [7] arose as a result of competition between Coulomb attraction (which is stronger than Coulomb repulsion because of plasma polarization) among particles and their short-range quantum repulsion. The concept was similar to the Van der Waals equation where the liquid-vapor phase transition was the result of competition between long-range attraction among particles and their short-range repulsion. The difference was that there were particles of two kinds: electrons and ions which moreover were in equilibrium with particles of the third kind: atoms. The latter were treated as an ideal gas [1,2].

Contrary to [7] the hypothesis [1,2] considered the case when atoms could not be treated as an ideal gas and the phase transition disappeared for this reason. However metastable states were retained in the region of weak non-idealty of atoms. Consequently the concept of the isolated metastable segment of the isotherm P(v) was introduced in [1]. The estimates showed that such segment could be assumed for the air isotherm T=300K. The point P=1atm corresponds to the BL state.

2. Ball Lightning as Rydberg matter at T=0.

The ideas of Rydberg matter were developed in [5,6]. The term means the crystal formed at T=0 from excited atoms with the same principle quantum number. The mechanism was formulated which pointed to the stability of Rydberg matter towards radiative recombination. The crux of the matter is that the authors [5,6] found out that electron distribution in Rydberg matter was strongly non-uniform one: electrons were located only near the borders of Wigner-Seitz cell, the central zone being separated by a potential barrier. So the wave functions of atomic ground states and Rydberg matter state do not overlap, i.e. the radiative recombination matrix element is equal to zero. Recombination goes slowly only via intermediate tunnel transition to the center of Wigner-Seitz cell. The authors [5,6] applied their concept to the formulation of the hypothesis [3,4] that BL was a Rydberg matter.

3. Joint hypothesis.

The hypothesis [3-6] does not use in fact the crystality of Rydberg matter, since density functional was used for calculations and Wigner-Seitz cell was assumed to be spheric. One is able to take the radius of Wigner-Seitz cell to be equal to the average inter-particle distance and apply the treatment [3-6] to the case [1,2]. Radiative metastability as well as metastability towards Auger-processes are new important contributions of [3-6] compared with [1,2].

Energy of interparticle interaction is 30 times larger than the kinetic energy of particles in [1,2]. Therefore the approximation T=0 works for the estimate of the energy of interparticle interaction and Madelung estimate was used in [1,2]. The treatment [3-6] defines the energy more accurately since it takes into account quantum effects.

Therefore the joint hypothesis takes the thermodynamic metastability consideration from [1,2] and treatment the BL properties mainly from [3-6].

[1]Biberman L M, Norman G E, High Temp 7(1969)767

[2]Norman G E, Chem. Phys. Reports 19(1999) 5

[3]Manykin E A, Ozhovan M I, Poluektov P P, Sov Phys Tech Phys 52(1982)905

[4]Manykin E A, Ozhovan M I, Poluektov P P, J Moscow Phys Soc 8(1998)19

[5]Manykin E A, Ozhovan M I, Poluektov P P, Sov Phys JETP 57(1983)256

[6]Manykin E A, Ozhovan M I, Poluektov P P, Sov Phys JETP 78(1994)27

[7]Norman G E, Starostin A N, High Temp 6(1968)394, 8(1970)381