For centuries, meteorologists and scientists have tried in vain to predict the exact path of lightening. While there has been success in predicting the start and end points of lightening, finding the path that the streak of lightening will take in between these two points remains unpredictable.
A team of scientists has now taken another approach to making lightening more predictable – they have found a method through which the path of electrical discharges can be guided. Professor Roberto Morandottiand, along with his colleagues, says that it is possible to steer the course of electric discharges, and even maneuver them around obstacles. This clever technique makes use of lasers. The breakthrough, which was published in the journal Science Advances, was made at a facility called Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS), and was spearheaded by researchers from the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications research center.
For several years, electric arcs have been deployed in a variety of applications such as combustion engines, machining, pollution control, and more. Now, armed with new technology to steer the course of electric arcs, scientists are confident that they can effectively apply the same to lightening. Figures created as part of this experiment depict how different lasers show distinct trajectories and properties. The researchers claim that by combining two or more beams, it is even possible to create an S-shaped path of lightening. According to the study, other trajectories are also possible in principle.
The scientists set out to understand whether the self-healing attributes of laser beams of certain shapes could be applied in their experiments. This means that if an object blocks the intensity peak of a laser beam, the latter can pass the object and then reconstruct itself.
As part of the experiment, the team of researchers kept an object in between two electrodes. Their observations were as predicted – the discharge shot over the object without causing it any damage. On the other side, the discharge went back to its laser guide. The team of scientists is now confident that this experiment could be applied on a much wider scale.