It is established that lightning occurs on Venus due to the presence of sulfuric acid clouds. Does this constant electric discharges and possible electrolysis affects the composition of the clouds on Venus for instance, sulfuric acid dissociating into ions like hydrogen ions, sulfate/bisulfate ions or decomposing into sulfur oxides or changing to other sulfur oxoacids?

There was a question on space.SE that discussed if peroxydisulfuric acid (H2S2O8) created due to electrolysis of concentrated sulfuric acid (from the lightning) can be used as a propellant fuel. If the species is indeed formed in the atmosphere, how abundant is it? How much of this species is present in the atmosphere?

Does lightning on Venus change/affect the chemical composition of the clouds? Does it affect the sulfur cycle of Venus in any way (so that it could create more exotic sulfur species)?


1 Answer 1


Observations by many spacecraft that have visited Venus over the last 40 years appear to confirm the presence of lightning storms in the Venus atmosphere. Recent observations by Venus Express indicate that lightning frequency and power is similar to that on Earth. While storms are occurring, energy deposition by lightning into Venus atmospheric constituents will immediately dissociate molecules into atoms, ions and plasma from the high temperatures in the lightning column (>30,000 K) and the associated shock waves and heating, after which these atom and ion fragments of C,O,S,N,H-containing molecules will recombine during cooldown to form new sets of molecules. Spark and discharge experiments suggest that lightning effects on the main atmospheric molecules CO2, N2, SO2, H2SO4 and H2O will yield carbon oxides and suboxides (COm, CnOm), sulfur oxides (SnO, SnOm), oxygen (O2), elemental sulfur (Sn), nitrogen oxides (NO, N2O, NO2), sulfuric acid clusters (HnSmOx.aHnSmOx e.g. HSO4.mH2SO4), polysulfur oxides, carbon soot and other exotic species. While the amounts generated in lightning storms would be much less than that derived from photochemistry, during storms these species can build up in a small area and so their local concentrations may increase significantly. [...]

Source: M.L. Delitsky, K.H. Baines, Storms on Venus: Lightning-induced chemistry and predicted products, Planetary and Space Science, Volumes 113–114, 2015,Pages 184-192, 10.1016/j.pss.2014.12.005


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