European researchers have successfully tested a system that uses terawatt-level laser pulses to steer lighting toward a 26-foot rod. It’s not limited by its physical height, and can cover much wider areas — in this case, 590 feet — while penetrating clouds and fog.
The design ionizes nitrogen and oxygen molecules, releasing electrons and creating a plasma that conducts electricity. As the laser fires at a very quick 1,000 pulses per second, it’s considerably more likely to intercept lightning as it forms. In the test, conducted between June and September 2021, lightning followed the beam for nearly 197 feet before hitting the rod.
The University of Glasgow’s Matteo Clerici, who didn’t work on the project, noted to The Journal that the laser in the experiment costs about $2.17 billion dollars. The discoverers also plan to significantly extend the range, to the point where a 33-foot rod would have an effective coverage of 1,640 feet.
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