Controlling Lightning Bolts with Laser Beams: Protection against Lightning Strikes


An interesting research has come up where scientists have attempted in controlling lightning with lasers. Huge architectural monuments and buildings (both residential and office) till now have been protected via lightning rods, which assured the predictability of bolts striking at one place, however, the pattern for route taken still remained an unsolved issue.

Discharges behave in the similar fashion between two electrodes at small scale as well. Controlling current and making it follow a predetermined path has always been a quest for lightning and electric arcs enthusiasts. Professor Morandotti and his team were able to discover method through which possibility of manipulation of electric discharges is achieved with the assistance of lasers.

Laser-assisted guiding of electric discharges

With the help of Advanced Laser Light Source, researchers were able to tweak the route taken by lightning thus forming high-voltage arc in lab. Scientists envision using its application in fields like combustion engines, pollution control applications, lighting, machining and micromachining. Although electric arcs are already used in these technologies but the new research would increase the capability to precisely control the path they take.

Team behind the study was able to demonstrate various forms of trajectories that are possible in principle including an ‘S’ shape.


Reconstructing laser beams

Professor Morandotti’s another quest was to see if there is any possibility of reconstructing laser beams incase of any obstruction in between its path. The team positioned an object between the two electrodes and noted that the discharge jumped over the hurdle, without causing it any damage and joined its laser guide on the other side.

Protection against lightning bolts

Protection against lightning strikes and high-voltage capacitor discharges is one way of seeing this research while the other side of the coin involves storing energy from thunderstorms or heavy cloud and then blending it into the national grid could also be a way of combating energy crisis. Not to miss, the possibility of controlling electrical arcs in machines and engines, would give a completely new dimension in maneuvering lightening and current.

[Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique]

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