Curiosities, lasers, lightning rods

Shooting a laser into the sky: a possible alternative to lightning rods

According to a new study by researchers from the Applied Optics Laboratory of the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, there is an alternative and effective way of deflecting or avoiding lightning strikes, in addition to the lightning conductor: the use of a laser.

To test it, the team installed the laser at the top of the Säntis mountain in north-eastern Switzerland, where a large metal telecommunication tower is located that receives the impact of about a hundred rays a year. The device is the size of a large family vehicle.

To perform the experiment, short, intense laser pulses (up to 1,000 per second) were fired into the clouds during a series of thunderstorms that successfully deflected four lightning discharges. Another 12 beams fell on the tower during those storm periods when the laser was inactive.

To certify that the lasers were actually responsible for the diversion, two separate high-speed cameras recorded a beam following the laser’s trajectory for 50 meters.

The laser arrester

Although this field of research has been very active for more than 20 years, this is the first field result that experimentally demonstrates that you can master this force of nature with laser. 

Thus, the implementation of the LLR project (Laser Lightning Rod or Laser Arrester) could not only be an effective way to avoid the impact of rays, but also a way to anticipate them if artificial intelligence models are used to predict their impact. A major achievement considering that lightning causes millions of euros in losses from damage to airports and other facilities. (National Geographic) (Photo: Nature Photonics)

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