Science & Tech

Scientists figured out how to steer lightning bolts with lasers

Scientists Redirect Lightning Using Lasers

For the first time, scientists have discovered a way to redirect lightning bolts using lasers.

According to the journal Nature Photonics, the scientists used a powerful laser device the size of a large car, which emitted powerful pulses aimed at thunderclouds at the top of the Säntis mountain in Switzerland.

Aurélein Houard, the study's lead researcher and physicist at École Polytechnique in Palaiseau, explained that metal rods are used in many different places to curb lightning. Still, the protection is limited to a "few" or "tens of metres away."

"The hope is to extend that protection to a few hundred metres if we have enough energy in the laser," Houard said.

Houard, alongside the other scientists, shared how they used the powerful laser at the top of the mountain. They placed it close to a 124m-high telecoms tower that gets hit by lightning around 100 times a year.

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From July to September 2021, they fired intense laser pulses at 1,000 times per second.

All four lightning strikes that occurred while the system was active were successfully interupted.

In the first experiment, the researchers used two high-speed cameras to document the redirection of the lightning's path by more than 50 meters. Three others were recorded with different data.

"We demonstrate for the first time that a laser can be used to guide natural lightning," Houard said.

Still, Houard believes that it will take another decade or more of work would be needed for the discovery to be used commonly.

Over one billion lightning bolts hit Earth each year, which results in many injuries, deaths, and costly damage to things like buildings and other objects.

The traditional lightning rods can be attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who was known to follow thunderstorms on horseback before his renowned kite experiment, where he highlighted the connection between lightning and electricity.

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