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Guiding lightning using a laser

Within European research, a significant scientific development is on the horizon, unveiling an innovation in lightning protection. Named 'Laser Lightning Rod' (LLR), this groundbreaking project could revolutionize safety over expansive areas by utilizing laser pulses to divert electrical discharges. This effort signifies a pivotal turning point in redefining traditional safety methods, often restricted in range.



At the heart of LLR lies an ingenious strategy: employing laser pulses to create a conductive plasma using ionized nitrogen and oxygen ions. This plasma magnetically attracts electrical discharges, securely guiding them towards the ground. The revolutionary aspect lies in the rapid pulse rate, emitting around 1000 pulses per minute. This high frequency significantly increases the probability of diverting electrical discharges from their inception.

Laser Innovation

Led by Dr. Aurélien Houard, the LLR project achieves crucial milestones in laser technology. Compared to prior attempts, the current laser emits an impressive 100-fold increase in pulses per second. This significant leap transcends past limitations that failed to intercept lightning at its formation. Experimentation validates this progress, showcasing how lightning follows the laser beam's path over a distance of about 20 meters. These findings emerged from a series of tests conducted between June and September 2021.

Toward Expanded Scope

Researchers now aim to further optimize their technology for increased coverage. The goal is to extend the protection radius to approximately 500 meters, surpassing previous boundaries. However, this promising technology necessitates a substantial investment. The cost of the laser used in current experiments is estimated at around 2.17 billion dollars, a sum reflecting the intricacy of this innovation.

Practical Applications on the Horizon

The potential impact of this innovation is considerable and vital. Various sectors, including wooded areas and power plants, could greatly benefit from this advance, shielding against the catastrophic consequences of electrical discharges. Moreover, rocket launch platforms could also reap the rewards of this technology, reducing delays caused by electrical discharges along the flight path. Overall, this innovation would bolster the protection of essential infrastructures, yielding positive implications for human safety.


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