Share this story!
An international research group has created a virtual lightning rod using laser beams.
By firing a thousand laser pulses per second into the air, the researchers were able to divert the lightning so that it struck in a different location.
Now, of course, an ordinary lightning conductor is more suitable than a large laser on an ordinary house. But the idea is that the laser can give researchers new knowledge that can then lead to better lightning protection for critical infrastructure at, for example, power plants and airports.
The researchers installed a laser, the size of a car, near a telecommunications tower on the mountain Säntis, in northeastern Switzerland. That tower usually gets hit by a hundred lightning strikes a year, which made it a suitable test object.
The test lasted six hours during a thunderstorm. By observing the high-frequency electromagnetic waves generated by the flashes, the researchers were able to see that four flashes were deflected by the laser. Instead of striking the tower, the lightning struck about 50 meters away.
Photo: Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Wolf at the University of Geneva, Switzerland