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North Carolina State University

1. Robinson, William Richard. Spherical Microwave Confinement and Ball Lightning.

Degree: PhD, Physics, 2010, North Carolina State University

This dissertation presents the results of research done on unconventional energy technologies from 1995 to 2009. The present civilization depends on an infrastructure that was constructed and is maintained almost entirely using concentrated fuels and ores, both of which will run out. Diffuse renewable energy sources rely on this same infrastructure, and hence face the same limitations. I first examined sonoluminescence directed toward fusion, but demonstrated theoretically that this is impossible. I next studied Low Energy Nuclear Reactions and developed methods for improving results, although these have not been implemented. In 2000 I began Spherical Microwave Confinement (SMC), which confines and heats plasma with microwaves in a spherical chamber. The reactor was designed and built to provide the data needed to investigate the possibility of achieving fusion conditions with microwave confinement. A second objective was to attempt to create ball lightning (BL). The reactor featured 20 magnetrons, which were driven by a capacitor bank and operated in a 0.2 s pulse mode at 2.45 GHz. These provided 20 kW to an icosahedral array of 20 antennas. Video of plasmas led to a redesign of the antennas to provide better coupling of the microwaves to the plasma. A second improvement was a grid at the base of the antennas, which provided corona electrons and an electric field to aid quick formation of plasmas. Although fusion conditions were never achieved and ball lightning not observed, experience gained from operating this basic, affordable system has been incorporated in a more sophisticated reactor design intended for future research. This would use magnets that were originally planned. The cusp geometry of the magnetic fields is suitable for electron cyclotron resonance in the same type of closed surface that in existing reactors has generated high-temperature plasmas. Should ball lightning be created, it could be a practical power source with nearly ideal characteristics that could solve many of our current energy-production problems. Advisors/Committee Members: Dr. David Aspnes, Committee Chair (advisor), Dr. Stephen Reynolds, Committee Member (advisor), Dr. Dean Lee, Committee Member (advisor), Dr. Mohamed Bourham, Committee Member (advisor).

Subjects/Keywords: plasmas; fusion; Ball Lightning; Spherical Microwave Confinement

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APA (6th Edition):

Robinson, W. R. (2010). Spherical Microwave Confinement and Ball Lightning. (Doctoral Dissertation). North Carolina State University. Retrieved from

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Robinson, William Richard. “Spherical Microwave Confinement and Ball Lightning.” 2010. Doctoral Dissertation, North Carolina State University. Accessed December 01, 2020.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Robinson, William Richard. “Spherical Microwave Confinement and Ball Lightning.” 2010. Web. 01 Dec 2020.


Robinson WR. Spherical Microwave Confinement and Ball Lightning. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. North Carolina State University; 2010. [cited 2020 Dec 01]. Available from:

Council of Science Editors:

Robinson WR. Spherical Microwave Confinement and Ball Lightning. [Doctoral Dissertation]. North Carolina State University; 2010. Available from: