Posted by Christina Folz, OPN Managing Editor
Scientists are often accused of playing God—a reputation that probably won’t be helped by the latest news out of this week’s Optics Express, which reports that a team of researchers have used high-power lasers to cue their own lightning on a mountaintop. But this work wasn’t done simply for the sake of creating an awesome display; it may eventually enable engineers to develop safer airplanes and power lines that can withstand lightning strikes.
The researchers conducted their experiment at the top of South Baldy Peak in New Mexico. They used laser pulses to create electricity-conducting filaments, which successfully generated electrical discharges within the clouds during two passing thunderstorms. The research was led by Jérôme Kasparian of the University of Lyon in France. He and his colleagues are involved in the Teramobile project, an international program initiated by National Center for Scientific Research in France and the German Research Foundation.
To learn more about the study, check out this press release from osa.org.