Worldwide, lightning strikes 40–120 times per second, killing more than 4,000 people each year and incurring billions of dollars in damage.
Yet the lightning rod, which was invented by American polymath Benjamin Franklin in 1749, continues to be the primary defense against these aerial bolts.
Since years, a group of scientists from six research institutes has been attempting to use the same concept but utilize a much more complex and precise laser in place of the simple metal pole.
Now, they explain utilizing a laser beam—shot from the peak of a Swiss mountain—to guide a lightning bolt for more than 50 meters in a study that was just published in the journal Nature Photonics.
Aurelien Houard, a physicist at the ENSTA Paris institute’s applied optics department and the study’s principal author, stated, “We wanted to deliver the first demonstration that the laser may have an affect on lightning — and it is simplest to guide it.
However, Houard told AFP that “it would be much better if we could trigger lightning” for upcoming applications.
How to catch lightning
Lightning is a discharge of static electricity that has built up in storm clouds, or between clouds and the ground.
The laser beam creates plasma, in which charged ions and electrons heat the air.