scientists now deflecting lightning with laser beams

We can see a laser beam shooting up into the sky that can apparently deflect lightning strikes, according to a Swiss-based project in what scientists are saying is the most significant advancement in lightning protection since the lightning rod, a Benjamin Franklin invention, from the 18th century.

This laser lightning rod can deflect four strikes at the Swisscom transmitter tower on Mount Santis during six hours of thunderstorm activity. The laser creates an electrical discharge following the course of a high-frequency laser beam through the air ranging to about 60 metres.

The scientists say that this represents an important step forward in laser-based lightning protection which is critical for infrastructure that can be impacted by lightning, such as airports, launch pads, and power stations, according to Jean-Pierre Wolf of the University of Geneva.

Apparently, this trial has followed 20 years of research and laboratory tests to develop a laser than has the chance to guide lightning discharges through the air without requiring heavy energy use and inputs or putting safety at risk.

The Swiss team decided to settle on using a system from Trumpf, a German laser company. The system will fire very short pulses of light with each lasting about one-trillionth of a second and fire them about 1,000 times per second.

More tests of this laser are bound to continue and it will be interesting to see if it can be made into a viable product that could be purchased by companies that could use it, such as airlines.