Scientists manage to deflect lightning thanks to a laser

The scientists demonstrated that it is possible to “guide” the lightning with impulses in the form of lasers instead of attracting them with the lightning rod.

An international scientific team has announced that it has succeeded for the first time in using a laser to redirect lightning , on a Swiss mountain.

Atmospheric lightning strikes the earth’s ground between 40 and 120 times per second. Each year they kill more than 4,000 people and cause economic losses worth billions of dollars.

The main protection up to now has been the lightning rod, a simple pointed metal bar invented by the American scientist Benjamin Franklin in 1749.

A show with a future

The team, made up of experts from six different institutions, has been working on an alternative for years.

His proposal, published in the journal Nature Photonics , is to incessantly launch an impulse in the form of a laser to “guide” the beam , instead of simply attracting it, as the metal rod does.

“We wanted to offer the first demonstration that a laser can influence the rays , and that the easiest thing is to guide them,” explained Aurélien Houard, a physicist at the Laboratory of Applied Optics at the Ecole Polytechnique de Paris.

Houard is the main author of a project that was developed for two decades together with Jean-Pierre Wolf, from the Applied Physics group at the University of Geneva, and with other collaborators.

Lightning is a discharge of static electricity accumulated between two clouds during a storm, or between those clouds and the Earth , while laser is an induced emission of radiation to generate a halo of light.

By emitting the laser into the sky, Houard and Wolf’s team manage to create a plasma (air charged with ions and electrons) that is partially conductive and that “thus becomes a preferential path for the beam ,” Houard explains.