Comprehensive coverage

Laser, lightning and the scientists in between

A European team of scientists has created electrical activity in storm clouds for the first time, by firing a powerful laser into the storm

Lightning from Wikipedia
Lightning from Wikipedia
Atop New Mexico's South Baldy Mountain, researchers fired laser pulses into clouds, creating plasma webs that conduct electricity. Contrary to popular belief, they didn't do it to resemble Frankenstein. At least, that's what they claim. A new way to create lightning on demand could lead to an improved study of the mechanisms by which lightning is created, which are unknown to this day. Proactive lightning strikes will also allow engineers a way to test the resistance of aircraft and sensitive structures, such as power lines, to lightning.
The pulsing laser segments the air and creates many streams of plasma - channels in the air containing ionized molecules. The plasma webs actually function as conductive wires that extend into the storm clouds. The basic idea is so simple that it was already proposed 30 years ago, but the lasers in those years were not powerful enough, and the plasma channels they created were very short. Jerome Kasparian's group from the University of Lyon in France has developed more powerful lasers that may change the picture.

Kasparian and his colleagues participated in the Trammobile project - an international program jointly initiated by the National Center for Scientific Research in France and the German Research Institute - and succeeded in assembling a mobile device capable of firing fast and powerful laser pulses. They chose to test their laser at the Langmuir Laboratory in New Mexico, which sits atop South Baldy Mountain at an altitude of more than 3000 meters. This laboratory was specially adapted for this experiment due to its location on top of the mountain, which gives it close proximity to the high storm clouds.

During the experiments on the top of the mountain, the group quantified the electrical activity in the clouds after the laser pulses were released. Statistical analysis of the data showed that the laser did indeed increase the electrical activity in the storm clouds it targeted. The researchers actually created local charge discharges in the places where the plasma channels were formed.

But was real lightning formed, spreading from the clouds to the ground? Not yet. The researchers admit that even the long plasma channels that were created could not survive long enough to conduct the lightning to the ground. The channels dissipated before the lightning could travel more than a few feet along. The group is now testing ways to increase the intensity of the laser pulses tenfold, and to use pulse barrages in order to optimize the creation of the plasma.

Although the scientific community has been studying lightning strikes since the days of Benjamin Franklin, a full explanation for the phenomenon has yet to be found. Scientists were able to create lightning already in the 70s, by firing small missiles into storm clouds, to which were attached long conductive wires that touched the ground on the other side. Only fifty percent of the missiles launched actually succeeded in causing a lightning strike. The use of laser technology will make the 'lightning creation' faster, more efficient and cheaper, and is expected to open the door to a number of new uses and applications.

9 תגובות

  1. The truth is that Nikola Tesla already in the 40's managed to create lightning (not even in the middle of a storm) that hit exactly where he wanted.

    This caused wireless electricity in a radius of 20 km from the ball where the lightning struck.

  2. Yehuda:
    Right.
    For some reason I read five percent.
    What is important - because you mentioned, this is the principle.

  3. To Michael
    A small mistake. a quote:-
    "Only fifty percent of the missiles launched actually succeeded in causing a lightning strike." End of quote, and not as you said.
    But, in general, you are probably right that they took these things into account, it can be assumed that everything depends on the cost of the laser cannon and its operation, and there will be cases to prefer either method.

    Happy holiday
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  4. Yehuda:
    The method was described as cheaper and more efficient and I have no doubt that the considerations you raised were taken into account.
    The laser fuse can also be moved from one place to another and it is probably no more difficult than moving missiles.
    The missiles themselves have a price and they always wear out (and if they don't do it perfectly there is also the possibility that the rest of them will fall on someone's head - something that will greatly limit their use) and it is definitely possible (and even probable) that the use of laser cannons is much more economical. According to the article - only one out of every twenty missiles that were lost produced lightning. This statistic, if applied to the lasers means that a laser will be able to fire at least twenty times before it hits so the cost of the laser cannon should be compared to the cost of at least twenty missiles.

  5. Amazing idea.

    In my youth I noticed that shortly after the lightning and thunder the rain falls. At first they argued against me that it was impossible, but then they explained to me that maybe the strong shaking as a result of the type of thunder could cause droplets to form in an area that is excessively humid.
    I don't know if it's true but there is logic in things and you should try, that is, in addition to sowing clouds, also create lightning. It can't hurt.
    And regarding the lightning production method:-
    There is a certain advantage in the conventional method of firing small missiles connected to a conductive wire for the purpose of producing lightning, and that is, the availability to do this from anywhere without special preparation of a large laser system. Another thing, I see a certain risk in the laser cannon, where the lightning may reach through the path of the beam to the cannon. On the other hand, the missile can be fired from a certain distance and is expendable, unlike the cannon.

    In short, there is still a lot of room for research

    Happy and kosher holiday, and for the vegetarians we built (Keri, Michael) don't forget to butcher a cucumber.

    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  6. This is a problematic issue. We have already destroyed the lands, we are polluting the oceans, the air is on the face, and now we want to destroy the composition of the atmosphere.
    I will point out that it is good that we do not know all the processes taking place in the same area. That way we can't use them to our advantage and we can't destroy them. To remind you that the atmosphere that protects us from the sun, and if we start playing with it, I don't see a rosy future for humanity.

  7. Anyone who has ever played Red Alert 2 knows that the USA has a special technology that allows creating a lightning storm over areas that are marked in advance (like the enemy's camp).
    For some reason this is going to be possible.. 🙂

  8. Simply genius, I hope that over time they will really succeed in causing pinpoint lightning strikes that will reach the ground at relatively low costs.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.