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Vid It sent a DeLorean back though time, brought Frankenstein's monster to life and nearly got Benjamin Franklin killed, but now the power of lightning has been harvested to charge a mobile phone.

White-coated boffins at the University of Southampton were co-opted by Nokia to catch a 200,000-volt spark and step it down before feeding it into a Lumia 925. The spark was artificially generated, but the process should work with natural lightning – assuming one has the requisite series of industrial-sized transformers handy.

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Snatching electricity from the air and stepping it down isn't that difficult, if one has a reliable source of energy to snatch, so the only difference between captured power and the usual supply was the noise introduced by the 30-centimetre air gap. The writhing of the spark manifests itself in variation to the power delivered, little of which is smoothed out by the stepping process.

Fortunately, Nokia phones, in common with many modern handsets, can take just about any voltage and turn it into useful power. The signal provided by those novelty hand-cranked USB chargers will be almost as noisy – and they are considerably safer than a million-volt bolt of lightning, too.

On that note, Nokia is keen to emphasise that no-one should try this at home: pointless playing with machines of lethal power is best left to the chaps in the white coats. ®

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