Scientists Can Now Direct Lightning
This story is going to seem like a Star Wars episode, but it’s real! We now have the ability that was once just left for the gods like Zeus or Thor.
Scientists on a mountain in Switzerland proved themselves capable of steering lightning bolts using lasers.
Let that sink in.
We can now effectively deflect lightning strikes.
Physicist Aurélien Houard of the École Polytechnique and his team documented the first experiment that showed real effectiveness in guiding lightning using lasers.
Information about this research was published in the academic journal Nature Photonics. The researchers discussed how laser-induced beams of light, formed in the sky via intense and repeated laser pulses, can guide lightning bolts over considerable distances.
The study began on the Säntis mountain in northeastern Switzerland during the summer of 2021. They used a “high-repetition-rate terawatt laser” that weighed over three tons and was near a telecommunication tower that is struck by lightning over 100 times a year.
The tower was struck by 16 lightning bolts between July 21 and Sept. 30, 2021. During the time of the study, there were four strikes and the scientists were able to target the thunderclouds above the mountain. And with each strike, they were able to direct the lightning discharges.
The laser steers the lightning flashes by “creating an easier path for the electrical discharge to flow along.”
“When very high power laser pulses are emitted into the atmosphere, filaments of very intense light form inside the beam,” Jean-Pierre Wolf, one of the study’s authors, reported to the press.
“These filaments ionise nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the air, which release electrons that are free to move. This ionised air, called plasma, becomes an electrical conductor,” Wolf said.
This study paves the way for new applications of lasers that could develop protection for airports, launchpads, or large infrastructures.