A european research consortium wants to use a specially developed laser to extract lightning from thunderclouds and make it harmless. The device, which can emit 1000 laser flashes per second with up to 600 gigawatts, was presented in unterfohring near munich, germany.
It was built by trumpf scientific lasers, one of seven project partners. The basic idea is to use the laser to create a plasma channel in the air. This channel conducts electricity very well. That’s why lightning follows it, as the managing director of trumpf scientific lasers, knut michel, explains. "For the blitz, it’s like choosing to drive on the highway or to fight your way through the jungle."The plasma channel, which is to be at least 100 meters long, is laid out in such a way that it guides the lightning to a classic lightning conductor that renders it harmless.
The technology could be interesting for airports, for example, so that they can maintain operations during thunderstorms or to protect sensitive objects such as missile launch pads from lightning strikes. "The damage caused by lightning runs into the billions every year," says michel. Especially in the case of airports, the times when they had to be closed because of the danger of lightning strikes were very significant.