Lightning strikes may one day be controlled with lasers after researchers from the National Institute of Scientific Research at the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Centre in Montreal, Canada discovered that electrical discharges can follow S-shaped trajectories with the use of self-healing lasers.
Lasers create a path of ionized particles in the air for electricity to follow, similar to Benjamin Franklin's famous kite string experiment. One hurdle researchers faced was that most lasers follow a straight line. But recent advancements in self-healing lasers now allow scientists to create complex parabola-like and S-shaped trajectories.
Known as an Airy beam, this laser has the ability to spontaneously reform its main intensity features after encountering an obstacle, thereby transporting the electrical charge around objects that would have otherwise completely blocked the discharge itself.
“Our fascination with lightning and electric arcs aside, this scientific discovery holds out significant potential and opens up new fields of research,” said Yves Bégin, vice dean of research and academic affairs at INRS. “This spectacular proof of concept, which was conducted over a distance of a few centimeters, required the high-power lasers, state-of-the-art facilities, and extraordinary research environment that our professors helped to create at INRS.”
The findings were published in the journal, Science Advances.
Image Credit: NOAA