For more than 200 years, lightning is protected by lightning bolts, high-altitude metallic pins that take charge of the discharge and allow it to flow to the ground. A significant lack of lightning bolts is the limited radius of lightning capture. To protect large areas, there is a need for lightning lumber forests, so with the invention of lasers, the idea of sending lightning to the laser beam has arisen, but the implementation has not been done before.
For the first time, an experiment with laser effects on storm clouds was carried out in 1999, with only partial experience, allowing three lasers in impulse mode with kilojoll energy to light up a 2-metre discharge in the sky, but nothing more than a year ago, when an international group of scientists began testing a powerful laser to protect against the discharge of a telecommunications tower at the top of Mount Centis in north-east Switzerland.
A team of physicists from Germany, the United States, France and Switzerland, led by Orellen Huar from the Paris Polytechnic School from July 21 to September 30, fired laser pulses over the tower at the moments of thunderstorm activity in the area, and the tower had its own metal lightning rod, and the laser beam was a continuation of it, although there was no direct contact between the beam and the lightning rod — it passed above the lightning rod and went into the sky.
During the period of observation, about which scientists shared in an article, part of which is accessible by reference, lightning hit the tower 16 times, of which four strikes were provoked by a laser, which is difficult to recognize as a success, but as proof that the approach is working, it is not.
In the process of observing lightning discharges without laser and using it, physicists collected enough data to determine the future direction of research. For example, most lightning strikes in the tower were carried negative charges to the ground. Another 5% were bipolar.
The scientists explained their success by using a laser with a high repeat rate of pulses. The high frequency of repetition allowed free electrons to be knocked out by the ionization of the atmosphere, to capture oxygen molecules and to accumulate, which saved the channel for discharge a little longer and contributed to the lightning energy running through the beam up to the turn-off and further to the ground.
Every year, lightning kills several thousand people on Earth and causes damage to the world economy, estimated at several billion United States dollars.