I have a character in my story with the ability to control and generate electricity . I am trying to make this story somewhat realistic so their ability works by sending a high voltage high current discharge through a laser-induced plasma channel. For plot reasons this character needs to possess the ability to fly. After reading this post, “here” I thought that this character could use the electricity delivered by the laser to create ionic wind and allow them to fly and create high speed wind.

So what I am asking is if this method would actually create wind and allow this character to move/fly .

Also to add more details

  • The voltage and current have a limit of volt 1000 volts and 1000 amperes/coulombs respectively.
  • They are immune to all other side effects of their ability.
  • The laser has a range limit of a km but I would prefer to be kept at a size of 2 meters or less.
  • If this does not work cyborg modifications of the body are allowed.
  • They are at the weight of an adult human.
  • $\begingroup$ The question is if laser induced plasma channels would create significant ion wind and if not why $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if questions like this really are worldbuilding. "I have a fictional characteristic X. How can I explain X using Real World science?" is different from "I have a fictional characteristic X. How can I rationalize X?" The former belongs on an alternate-Earth physics.SE that allows questions based on fantasy. The latter is actual worldbuilding. Why do I say this? Because the world you're asking about (the Real World) has already been built and you're just trying to tell a story in it - which means the worldbuilding question has already been answered and only the story is left. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jun 23 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ Good point and do you know any websites that I can use for stuff like this $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ Check out our list of worldbuilding resources or reword your question to avoid all the fantasy components and ask it on Physics or Earth Science. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jun 23 at 6:01
  • $\begingroup$ Okay thank you :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


The dielectric strength of air (the voltage you need to put on it before it breaks down and becomes "lightning" at ambient temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. is frequently cited as 3 kV/mm.

At 1 kV, your superhero will be able to break down air at a range of 1/3 mm, which is a little thicker than a human hair (up to 0.1 mm). That's not a lot of air, but there's a little bit there.

If you approximate the area of the human hand as 400 square centimeters (0.04 square meters), then the volume we have available to us is $0.0003\cdot0.04=0.000012$ cubic meters of air, corresponding to 0.000015516 kilograms of air (15.5ish micrograms) at a density of 1.293 kilograms per cubic meter.

That's barely any air. But you can heat it quickly: dumping a million watts of heat (since $P=VI$) into 15.5 micrograms of air will heat it rapidly. Air has a heat capacity of ~700 joules per kilogram-Kelvin. At a mass of 0.000015516 kilograms, and one million joules of energy per second, we're left with a temperature change of more than 92,000,000 degrees per second.

In one millisecond, the air in the palms of the electrokinetic will exceed ninety-two thousand degrees, which is hotter than the exhaust of a solid-rocket motor by a factor of three. You don't need a plasma channel: you're dumping enough power into a very small amount of air, and the sheer heat will be roughly equivalent to setting off a very powerful rocket in your hand.

Of course, nobody will be able to survive that except your hero, making them functionally a god except against other supers. Air that hot boils tungsten; there's not a material in existence that can withstand that temperature. Bullets will vaporize at the wall of flame, and lasers will be scattered by the super-hot plasma created after a few seconds. As a weapon, the super can effectively weaponize their ability to superheat air: their ability heats air to the temperature that a nuclear bomb does, which of course would create a similar level of destruction on a smaller scale. Walk into the bottom floor of a building, add that much heat to the air, and everyone inside is boiled instantly. Note that this isn't because of the energy their putting into the air - one megawatt is comparably small - but being able to continuously add that much energy to a small volume of air allows them to create shockwaves as the fireball expands supersonically. All they need to do to enable this power is put their hands together, maybe with thick rubber gloves on to create a roughly-airtight seal (handwave some unobtainium-lined gloves for Electro-Hero), and activate their power. Air quickly ionizes and reaches thousands or even millions of degrees, and when they release the seal, everyone in the room is instantly vaporized.

They can probably fly, too. Just direct the expanding gases downwards.

  • $\begingroup$ But wouldn’t the plasma channel created by the laser act as a conductive wire and allow the 1000 volts to travel through much easier compared to normal air? Also I might just keep this instead of the alternative since in my opinion at least this is much cooler $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Coolcats112 Once the air ionizes, it will act as an electrical channel, but it wouldn't ever be able to extend more than 1/3 of a millimeter at a time. With all due respect, that's a lot of time to build up a cool lightning bolt-shaped plasma channel when you've already solved all a hero's problems. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ Okay thank you for the input $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 18:59

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