Scientists in France have made a breakthrough in the field of lightning protection by developing a method to redirect lightning strikes using a weather-controlling super laser. Scientists redirected the lightning bolt with a laser for the first time ever.
French scientists have developed a method of redirecting lightning strikes by utilizing a super laser for weather control.
Scientists at the Polytechnic Institute of Paris have successfully directed strikes from thunderclouds to locations where they will not cause harm. They claim that this new method can protect power plants, airports, launchpads, and other structures from destruction.
The technique involves creating a virtual lightning rod, using metal conductors to capture the lightning and channel its energy into the ground.
“The findings extend the current understanding of laser physics in the atmosphere and may aid in the development of novel lightning protection strategies,” says corresponding author Dr. Aurelien Houard, according to a statement from SWNS.
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The scientists have developed an equipment weighing five-tons, which is roughly the size of a car and can release up to a thousand pulses per second. They have placed it close to a telecommunications tower located in the Swiss Alps, an area that experiences around 100 lightning strikes annually.
“A powerful laser aimed at the sky can create a virtual lightning rod and divert the path of lightning strikes,” Dr. Houard tells SWNS. “The findings may pave the way for better lightning protection methods for critical infrastructure – such as power stations, airports and launchpads.”
Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752 as part of his pioneering research on electricity, and it is still utilized today. However, the practicality of implementing them is often limited. They only counteract the immediate impacts of lightning strikes and can lead to electromagnetic interference and voltage spikes in electronic devices and appliances.
“Acting as a virtual, movable rod, a laser beam directed at the sky could offer an alternative,” Dr. Houard continues.
The laser could prevent billions of dollars in damage
The concept of utilizing powerful laser pulses to steer lightning strikes has been previously studied in laboratory settings. However, there were no previous field tests that proved the feasibility of guiding lightning using lasers. Dr. Houard and his team conducted a series of experiments last summer on Mount Santis, a peak in northeastern Switzerland.
During six hours of operation during thunderstorms, they saw the laser redirecting the path of four upward lightning discharges from the tower which is 121 meters tall. The results were confirmed by using high-frequency electromagnetic waves that were generated by the lightning to identify the strikes.
“Increased detection of X-ray bursts at the time of the strikes also confirmed successful guiding,” Dr. Houard tells SWNS. “One of the strikes was directly recorded by high-speed cameras and shown to follow the laser path for over 50 meters.”
The trillion-Watt laser mentioned in Nature Photonics is a unique device and one of the strongest within its category.
The power of lightning can be incredibly destructive. It can lead to blackouts and wildfires, harm electronic devices and structures, and even result in human and animal injury or death. The financial losses caused by lightning are in the billions annually. As storms become more frequent and intense due to climate change, the damage caused by lightning is likely to grow in the future.
By using lasers to guide lightning, it would be possible to safeguard places such as airports, power plants, skyscrapers and forests. The laser creates an extended ionized channel known as a laser filament that directs towards clouds, which serves as an attractive path for lightning, diverting it away from sensitive locations.
“By shooting a thousand laser pulses a second into the clouds we can safely discharge the lightning and make the world a little bit safer,” adds co-author Dr. Clemens Herkommer of Trumpf Scientific Lasers.
Another recent development in a similar field was made when, Make Sunsets, Luke Iseman’s startup that has at least $500,000 in venture money, conducted geoengineering experiments to cool the earth.
When are lightning strikes a major concern?
Santis is known as one of the European regions with a high frequency of lightning strikes, primarily occurring during the time of greatest thunderstorm activity which is between May to August.
“Lightning has fascinated and terrified humankind since time immemorial,” Dr. Houard says.
“Based on satellite data, the total lightning flash rate worldwide – including cloud-to-ground and cloud lightning – is estimated to be between 40 and 120 flashes per second, causing considerable damage and casualties. The documented number of lightning fatalities is well above 4,000 and lightning damages amount to billions of dollars every year.”