Scientists in France have made a groundbreaking discovery, creating a way to divert lightning strikes using a laser beam. This is the first time that lightning has been guided using a ‘super-laser’. A team of scientists from six research institutions has been working for years to use laser for weather controlling. Success was finally achieved by researchers from the Polytechnic Institute of Paris, who guided the strikes from thunderclouds to places where they don’t cause damage. The new technique could protect key infrastructure projects like power stations, airports, launchpads and other buildings from disaster.
So far, the only protection against lightning strikes is the humble lightning rod, which was first conceived by American polymath Benjamin Franklin in 1749. Lightning strikes between 40-120 times a second worldwide, killing more than 4,000 people and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage every year.
The research about the latest breakthrough has been published in the journal Nature Photonics. In the study, the researchers have said that they used a laser beam – shot from the top of a Swiss mountain – to guide a lightning bolt for more than 50 metres.
“We wanted to give the first demonstration that the laser can have an influence on lightning – and it is simplest to guide it,” said Aurelien Houard, a physicist at the applied optics laboratory of the ENSTA Paris institute and the study’s lead author.
The laser creates a virtual lightning rod mimicking metal conductors that intercept the bolts and divert their currents. The device weighs five tonnes – about the size of a large car – and is capable of firing up to a thousand pulses per second.
The trillion-Watt laser described as the first of its kind, and one of the most powerful in its class. This breakthrough has the potential to revolutionize the way we protect against lightning strikes and minimize damage caused by these natural occurrences.