Imagine the military comes up with a grenade that can spew lightning bolts within a radius of a couple of meters, each bolt contains so much charges that the air crackle producing succession of sonic booms and stunning flashes in its vicinity. That's not all in split seconds the electrons in the air gains so many energy that they escape freely and grows extremely bright thereby raising the temperature of surrounding air to over hundreds of thousands of degree Celsius in the blink of an eye. Would this piece of technology change the tide of war and what counter measure is effective against it? Please based your answer on 21st century C.E. innovation and do provide the working principle together with experiment result whenever applicable, and last but not least use magic sparingly.

  • $\begingroup$ Would it be a hand grenade, or rather RPG? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Molot: I prefer hand grenade hence the counter measure is meant for the user. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 7:54
  • $\begingroup$ These grenades would be expensive and tricky to use. I'd stick to lightning guns. $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


Not really, no. We've had 400 years to figure out ways of stopping electrical discharges from causing harm. All you really need is a grounded shield to draw the discharge, and everything behind it is perfectly safe.
Contrast that to the amount of effort, both in terms of energy input and costs (parts and labour) in making and delivering the grenade, and it's easy to see it isn't worth it.

As regards energising electrons, so that they

"they escape freely and grows extremely bright thereby raising the temperature of surrounding air to over hundreds of thousands of degree Celsius in the blink of an eye",

the sun has a surface temperature of around 5,000$^o$ C, hundreds of thousands would create a shockwave that would, maybe, vapourise all water nearby, including inside people and the soil, and create a mushroom cloud. That's more of a WMD than a short range weapon, and there's better ways to be both.

Assuming air heats up linearly (it doesn't), and rounding cp to 1,000 J/kg.K,
energy required to raise 1 kg air to 100,000$^o$ C $$ = 1\times1000\times 100000 J = 1 \times 10^8 J \approx 0.1\ Tons\ of\ TNT$$ Now, expand for the amount of air you're planning to heat up, take into account that the expansion will be cubic (doubling the speed of air molecules will require 8 times the energy), and the multiple hundreds of thousands planned for, and you end up with a small nuke.

To put things into perspective :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNT_equivalent


The energy requirement can be satisfied using antimatter or similar high density energy storage or room temperature superconductors. X-rays that would be emitted by antimatter could be used to generate loads of electrons. It should have a protective insulation that can be ripped apart instead of exploding.

For it to be effective, it should explode in the air. It could change the battle scene but I think it won't be drastically. Firstly, it will be expensive, second, it is dangerous, finally, it will be hard to use as it needs to be detonated in the air. Maybe they could be delivered using micro drones.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Modern"? "Antimatter" or "room temperature superconductors"? I'm pretty sure we don't have anything resembling room temperature superconductors, and the amount of antimatter we have managed to produce in total so far is miniscule. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ 21st century is not over yet, I still have high hopes for it and if needed I bet some countries will be willing to pay the price for antimatter. But I guess it can be used to power even stronger weaponry. Even though not the best way of doing it, antiprotons (H nuclei) can be stored in a magnetic field. You need about 0.1mg of antimatter for that bomb. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 9:09

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