Laser-guided Lightning Demonstrated

Using a laser to guide lightning has been demonstrated! A Swiss group used a high power, high repitition rate laser to guide lighning down a laser beam. The application here would be to use lasers to steer lightning away from damaging structures.

Briefly what happens is as follows. A large electric potential develops between a cloud and the ground, which can lead to lightning. What we see as lightning is the return current from the cloud to the ground. But before the flash the cloud has to, figuratively, drop a wire down to the ground for the current to flow through. It does this by ionizing a channel through the air. This feature is called a dart leader, and it takes a jagged path to the surface. What the Swiss group was able to do was make an ionized path to the ground using the laser, which the lightning followed. IMHO pretty amazing work.

Popular Article in the Washington Post here. Inside that article is a link to the Nature Photonics paper if you want the details.

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Bob Sica @bobiverse