In my previous question I mentioned a character with the ability to control electricity. I had an idea of them using Lorentz forces as a main method of offense but we found that this was extremely inefficient. So I am resorting to the traditional method of electrokinetic characters and their offense with the ability to generate powerful electric arcs from a distance (30-60 meters). I realise that creating electric discharges comparable to lightning is impossible on a human scale.

I am going to describe the method now.

  1. Plasma is created with an electrical arc that is high voltage and high amperage to sustain it.
  2. An electrical generator + a capacitor create an extremely high current around 100 amps.
  3. The electricity from the generator is sent to a voltage multiplier to increase the voltage.
  4. Using this electricity we create a large amount of magnetism with an electromagnet and use this magnetism to create Lorentz forces in a railgun like appendage.
  5. The plasma created initially is shot into the railgun accelerating it out of the body.
  6. Then the electrical current is sent down the plasma microseconds after it is shot creating an electrical beam of death.

Would this approach to electrokinesis work and if not what would be needed to make it work?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure 100 amps is an extremely high, FWIW. You can get a 100-amp motor controller for under 100 bucks, and any welding power supply will deliver those sorts of currents. But that aside... do you need to explain, in detail, how these powers work? Is it critical for your setting? Because it risks becoming complex and unrewarding, and your brainwidth is perhaps better spend on other aspects of your setting, with semiplausible details like this left a little handwavey. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ How is a blob of ionization going to remain ionized for 1 m never mind 30 m. If it does stay ionized how will a stream/beam of plasma going to stay pointed on target over several meters in free air? Plasma is less dense then air, and so high speed plasma will experience extreme turbulence. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


What you're trying to do is admirable, but ultimately cannot work

I'm an electrical engineer. I don't claim to be perfect, but if you're asking me whether or not what you're proposing is , the simple answer is, "it isn't."

  • There is no such thing as a super power. Somewhere you're going to use the phrase "magic happens here." You need to tell us where that magic is happening.

  • Most of what you're describing isn't realistic from my perspective. An example is that you're ignoring power (voltage x current = watts). You don't seem to realize that a voltage multiplier is a current divider because the output power can't ever be anything but less than than the input power unless additional power is supplied. Thus, if you have a mega watt of power at 110 volts (~9,091 amps) and you step up the voltage to one mega volt then you must divide the current down to 1 amp. A high voltage electrical field with no punch behind it.

  • Another problem you've ignored is the fact that Earth is, well... by definition ground. Electricity can be manipulated by magnetism in a controlled environment, but in the outside world you'd need magnificent magnetic fields to keep discharged electricity from simply shunting to the ground almost directly below the finger you're pointing to discharge the electricity. I know you've tried to overcome that with plasma, but that won't work, either. I'll get to that in a moment.

  • Capacitors aren't perfect. They take time to charge, if you push too much charge into them they explode (violently!), and if they discharge too fast they heat up and melt. It's easy to discharge a micro-farad in a microsecond. It's not trivial to discharge a ten-thousand farad cap in a microsecond. And a cap that big would be the size of a semi-trailer. BTW, isn't your super person the electrical generator? Is the capacitor being towed along behind said person?

  • You want to use an electromagnet to create magnetic fields that, in turn, affect Lorentz forces to charge a "railgun-like appendage?" Why not use the windings of the electromagnet to create a railgun? Railguns are (simplistically) tubes with a series of wire windings along their length that charge in sequence to push objects to high speeds. Using those windings to do something else that eventually results in windings (of some kind) that create a (biological?) railgun is creating loss and inefficiency. (BTW, biological electrical channels that can handle the power load you're considering is definitely in the "magic happens here" category.)

  • Plasma is shot into (or through) the railgun? So your super human is creating a massive electrical field, which causes the atmosphere between to points to ionize (become plasma), and then you use magnetism to route that plasma into the railgun, which in turn uses magnetism to propel the plasma? How are you keeping the plasma in a tight stream after it leaves the railgun such that a subsequent electrical arc can travel along it? (Which it won't do because it's going to travel to ground ASAP.)

There's a cost with trying to create a explanation for

You're not the first person to try to scientifically explain the magic of super powers. There's a simple truth: you can't. If you think about it, we can't arbitrarily shoot lightning in the way you want right now using wholly science-based tools and technology. We have to set up a lower potential than the ground potential and that always requires a pre-established and controlled environment. If we can't do it with the solutions available to humanity today, there's no way to create a rationalization for an inherently -based super power.

Now, if what you want to do is use Lorentz forces to rationalize a explanation for your super power... I'm completely onboard with that! We need to work some of the obvious kinks out of your explanation, like skipping the plasma component (you can't create enough plasma and keep it contained well enough along the entire path), but if we stop regulating the answer to a pure science-only solution we can make it work.

  • $\begingroup$ Mmm. I'm not sure I'd describe a megavolt at one amp as "having no punch behind it". I mean, it might not level a building, but smaller and squishier things are going to have a bad day if they get that running through them. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime When it comes to electrocution, there's a huge difference between voltage and current. It's current that kills, not voltage, but voltage an ameliorate the issue. The OP didn't provide any specifics about the superpower, only the methodology, so I'm using an example only to demonstrate the problem of relying on voltage multipliers. Worse, though, is that the higher the voltage, the shorter the path it will take to its destination. For example, a high voltage will ... (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 19 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ ... skirt over the surface of the skin rather than penetrating through it, which is why people can survive lightning strikes. Thus, there's not much punch to a megavolt-amp. A study of the science of electrocution would help the OP a lot. The simple reality is that the more one tries to scientifically rationalize magic (in any form), the less believable it becomes because science is a harsh mistress. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 19 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ "People have survived lightning strikes therefore one amp at one megavolt is harmless" is not particularly sound reasoning. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime I didn't say it was harmless. Where'd you get that? All I said is that there's no punch behind it. From an electrical engineering perspective, there isn't. But, if it makes you feel better, it's like comparing a 1980s Russian Lada car (which I've driven) to an Abrahms M1 tank (which I haven't). Yes, you can kill someone with the Russian Lada... but it has no punch. (Are we straining at gnats at this point?) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 21 at 23:59

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