Researchers at ENSTA Paris and Ecole Polytechnique under the direction of Aurélien Houard present “the first field-result that experimentally demonstrates lightning guided by lasers,” which is “an important step forward in the development of a laser based lightning protection for airports, launchpads, or large infrastructures.”
Four “upward” lightning discharges, or bolts that strike upward from the earth, were successfully steered by laser pulses fired into the sky over Säntis Mountain by Houard and his colleagues.
One of these intercepts was captured by fast-moving cameras, which showed that the lasers could direct a lightning strike more than 50 meters (164 feet).
According to the research, infrastructure within a half-mile radius and at elevations of several hundred meters may be shielded by laser-based lightning rods.
Since the beginning of time, lightning has captivated and terrified humans.
According to satellite data, the global average lightning flash rate—which includes cloud-to-ground and cloud lightning—is estimated to be between 40 and 120 flashes per second, resulting in significant property damage and fatalities.
The team said, “Here we give the first demonstration that lightning discharges can be guided over significant distances by laser-induced filaments—formed in the sky by short and powerful laser pulses.