Scientists divert lightning strikes using giant laser for the first time


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.


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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