MadSci Network: Engineering

Re: what gases and elements are created when the spark of a vandergraaff genera

Date: Thu Mar 9 11:10:10 2006
Posted By: Richard Bersin, Other (pls. specify below), Senior Technical Staff Member, Emergent Technologies
Area of science: Engineering
ID: 1137110496.Eg

Dear Sylvia:

When the spark from the generator goes off the spark is made up of ions, 
free electrons, and many molecules comprising constituents of the air.  
Let us assume before the spark we have plain air in the chamber; this 
would mean oxygen molecules, nitrogen molecules, water vapor, carbon 
dioxide, and all the gases that are present in normal air.   You can look 
up "Air" in the encyclopedia to find out what all the components might 
be.   When there is a spark, it means that the electric field in the air 
has become so high that free electrons and ions in the air (they are 
always there in tiny amounts because of cosmic ray bonbardment from outer 
space) gather very high energy from the electric field and their energy is 
great enough for them to break up molecules.   So in the spark there can 
be free nitrogen atoms, oxygen atoms, ozone molecules (O3), hydrogen 
atoms from the water in the air, NH3(ammonia) molecules which come from 
the reactions of the nitrogen and the hydrogen from the water, some 
methane (CH4) from the water and CO2 molesules which are broken up, and 
many other molecules depending upon how clean the air was before the 
spark.  I hope this answer will satisfy your curiosity.  No elements are 
created, but from the breakdown of molecules free unreacted elements may 
be present, but only if they were there in the air before!

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