Lightning is one of the most powerful displays of electrostatics in nature. Its strikes have always been unpredictable, causing everything from house fires to death by striking individuals directly.
Scientists at the University of Arizona and the University of Central Florida are developing a new technology which will be capable of controlling the lightning via high-intensity laser beams through the atmosphere to guide lightning away from buildings.
How it works: When the high-intensity laser beam is fired, it generates ionized molecules that provide a path for lightning to take to the ground. This way, the lightning can be diverted to the location free of buildings and people.
Previously, scientists were facing one major problem doing this as the high-intensity lasers lose energy very quickly and hence they aren’t capable of traveling long distances through the air.
To overcome this problem, they embedded the primary high-intensity beam inside of a second beam (called a dress beam) of lower intensity. As the inner beam travels through the air, the second beam refuels it and help to prevent the dissipation of the primary beam, which would break down quickly on its own. That ensures the laser beam will get enough energy to travel much greater distances than what was previously achievable.
The research is still in the laboratory phase. However, one day it could help in controlling the rain and lightning over a large expanse.