Atmospheric Physics

A light-induced lightning rod

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 51
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6205.51-a
PHOTO: © JEFF SMITH/ALAMY

Lightning storms are fantastic examples of the power of nature, but also extremely damaging. They can destroy buildings, create power surges, are a major cause of forest fires, and make golfers abandon their games to seek shelter. Using light pulses fired from a powerful laser, Scheller et al. demonstrate the possibility of taming this wild force of nature. In a lab-based experiment, intense pulses of light vaporized a column of air and created a conducting filament of electrons that then acted as a lightning rod to channel the electrical discharge to ground. Scaling up this approach could enable the control of lightning strikes.

Optica 10.1364/OPTICA.1.000125 (2014).

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