Scientists divert lightning strikes using giant laser for the first time

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SCIENTISTS have managed to divert lightning strikes using a giant laser for the first time.

They say the technique could save power stations, airports, launchpads and other buildings from damage.

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The Laser Lightning Rod, an experimental lighting protection device that diverts the path of lightning bolts using a high-power laserCredit: Reuters

The trillion-watt laser creates a virtual lightning rod — metal conductors that intercept flashes and guide their currents into the ground.

The laser beam heats air molecules to create a channel that act as a “filament” that conducts electricity.

The five-ton device, the size of a large car, was installed near a 400ft telecommunications tower in the Swiss Alps which is struck by lightning 100 times a year.

Scientists saw the laser divert the course of four lightning discharges by up to 150ft each time.

Dr Clemens ­Herkommer, of Trumpf Scientific Lasers in Unterfohring, Germany, said: “By shooting a thousand laser pulses a second into the clouds, we can safely discharge the lightning and make the world a little bit safer.”

A small portable laser could detect signs of alien life, ­scientists say.

Boffins at the University of Maryland shrank existing tech to make a device weighing 17lb for space missions.

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