May 26, 2024


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Laser technology to protect critica… – Information Centre – Research & Innovation

Lightning strikes can cause sizeable harm to properties and significant infrastructure, these as airports. To mitigate this chance, a person EU project is trying to use powerful laser technological innovation to regulate where by lightning strikes. If productive, the ensuing laser lightning rod could assist help save dollars – and lives.


© stnazkul #84059942, 2020

It is stated that lightning under no circumstances strikes the very same position 2 times. But just a person strike can be more than enough to cause sizeable harm. Not only do lightning strikes kill up to 24 000 persons each and every yr, they’re also liable for electric power outages, forest fires, and structural harm.

When lightning strikes crucial infrastructure and delicate sites like airports and rocket launch pads, the consequence can be billions of euros in harm. To mitigate this chance, the EU-funded LLR project has set out to do what was after regarded as unattainable: regulate lightning. 

“Today’s lightning protection devices are nonetheless based on the lightning rod created by Benjamin Franklin practically three hundred many years back,” claims Aurélien Houard, a researcher at Ecole Polytechnique in France and LLR (Laser Lighnting Rod) project coordinator. “Our project intends to update this thought working with a extremely powerful laser.”

A powerful laser beam

At the coronary heart of the project is a novel form of laser that includes a powerful beam. This beam will act as a preferential route for the lightning, diverting it absent from probable victims. The exclusive laser will also guidebook lightning flashes to the ground to discharge the electrical demand in the clouds.

To illustrate, when installed at an airport, the laser lightning rod would run in conjunction with an early warning radar procedure. “Upon the improvement of thunderstorm situations, the laser would be fired toward the cloud to deflect the lightning strike absent from aircraft all through get-off, landing, taxiing, and ground functions,” clarifies Houard. “In outcome, this would make a secure corridor surrounded – and protected – by lasers.”

Ground-breaking technological innovation

To achieve the necessary depth and repetition charge, the project has employed a amount of ground-breaking technologies. For case in point, it utilizes chirped pulse amplification (CPA), the existing-point out-of-the-art approach employed by most of the world’s substantial-electric power lasers and the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. “CPA is a approach for amplifying an ultrashort laser pulse,” claims Houard. “It is effective by stretching out the laser pulse temporally, amplifying it, and then re-compressing it.”

To deliver the limited laser pulses at a substantial repetition charge of 1 000 pictures for every 2nd, the project crew experienced to scale up the laser’s ordinary electric power. To do this, sophisticated amplification technological innovation created by Trumpf, a German industrial device manufacturing business and member of the project consortium, was employed.

According to Houard, the power equipped by the technology’s numerous diodes is concentrated in a extremely skinny disk of crystal cooled by drinking water. “When the laser pulse goes nevertheless the crystal, the stored power is transferred to the laser pulse through a quantum mechanism called ‘laser gain’,” he claims. “The design of this skinny disk amplifier permitted for an enhance in the electric power of the ultrashort laser by an buy of magnitude.”

The project also created an innovative procedure for predicting lightning activity. “Using a combination of normal knowledge from temperature stations and synthetic intelligence, the partners created a new way of predicting lightning strikes within just a forecast interval of 10 to 30 minutes and within just a radius of 30 kilometres,” reviews Houard. “This is the first time that a procedure based on straightforward meteorological knowledge has been in a position to predict lightning strikes through serious-time calculations.”

Demonstration prepared for 2021

The LLR crew is currently testing the laser in Paris, with the goal of validating the thought of properly guiding a lightning strike to the ground by projecting a lengthy-variety beam into the environment.

A last demonstration of the LLR thought is set to get position on Mt. Säntis in Switzerland, which is dwelling to a Swisscom tower that is struck by lightning around a hundred situations each and every yr. The demonstration is prepared for 2021. Adhering to a productive demonstration, the project crew is confident that the procedure will be all set for comprehensive commercialisation within just a few many years.