A Laser Light­ning Killer

Popular Science - - FEATURES - MHH

Light­ning is pretty. But near air­ports, it can threaten ground crews, send­ing them in­doors and de­lay­ing flights. Around power sta­tions, it can cut the juice to en­tire ci­ties.

Jean-Pierre Wolf, a physi­cist at the Univer­sity of Geneva, says that new lon­grange lasers can travel for miles and stop elec­tric zingers be­fore they fry stuff. When pointed into a storm, their beams lay down a chan­nel of low-den­sity, ion­ized mol­e­cules and plasma fil­a­ments that draws elec­tric­ity—just like Dr. Evil’s trac­tor beam seiz­ing an as­ter­oid—and this con­trols the light­ning’s path.

Wolf demon­strated the beams’ ef­fec­tive­ness in the skies above South Baldy Moun­tain in New Mex­ico more than a decade ago. And he re­cently com­mis­sioned a work­ing pro­to­type from TRUMPF Sci­en­tific Lasers, which makes in­dus­trial and med­i­cal cut­ting lasers. When com­pleted in about three years, he’ll de­ploy it around an ac­tual air­port or power sta­tion. The laser will be able to fire off 1,000 pulses per sec­ond—hope­fully bleed­ing off any bolt that Zeus can hurl.

Far-Out Plans for Tam­ing Our Weather

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.