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Lightning powers cellphone

Posting in Energy

Nokia demonstrating its forthcoming line of phone chargers?

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Nokia is going all out to put a jolt back into its business.

The flagging Finnish cellphone company has charged one of its handsets with lightning, the BBC reports.

Nokia worked with scientists (I didn't say "mad") at the University of Southampton in England to shoot a 200,000-volt bolt across an 11-inch air gap.

"We were amazed to see that the Nokia circuitry somehow stabilized the noisy signal, allowing the battery to be charged," said Neil Palmer from the university's high voltage laboratory.

While the stunt might raise the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, or of the friendly monster with the big scarred forehead himself, what on earth was Nokia thinking?

"This discovery proves devices can be charged with a current that passes through the air, and is a huge step towards understanding a natural power like lightning and harnessing its energy," Palmer said.

In the quest for new ways to power phones and extend battery life, analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insights called the development "striking."

The demonstration was worthy of the antics of the old showman inventor Thomas Edison.

It also echoed the ideas of Edison's rival Nikola Tesla, who in the early 20th century wanted to beam electricity wirelessly through the skies via inductive power transfer - the same technology used on a smaller scale today to juice up toothbrushes and that is working its way into electric car charging.

But sometimes you have to state the obvious: Don't try this at home.

Here's a video of the lightning boys and bolts in action:

Photo of lightning strikes in Bucharest is from Wikimedia. Video is from Nokia via YouTube.

Note: Video added on Oct. 2, 2013 around 8:20 a.m. Pacific time, about a day after story first posted. -- MH

More wireless charging:

— By on October 1, 2013, 2:54 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure