Though it may seem unreal, scientists have been working on developing a highly precise system incorporating a laser tractor beam to alter the path and direction of natiral lightning. And, there’s a really good reason behind this: lightning strikes are mainly responsible for bushfires in Australia, and an increasing number of wildfires in the US. Hence, a system capable of diverting the lightning will not only aid in saving lives but will also protect wildlife and giant, essential ecosystems.
Can lightning be controlled?
Physicist Vladlen Shvedov from Australian National University says, ” We can envision a future where this innovation may instigate electrical release from passing lightning, assisting with controlling it to safe targets and diminish the danger of cataclysmic fires.” These systems use a beam of laser that mimics the lightning’s process, making a way and targeting something for an electrical release.
Lightning is nothing but an electric current that fills the space between a positively charged point on the ground and a negatively charged point at the base of a thundercloud. The system of laser beam being developed by the scientists determines an area for this electrical release to occur. In their experiments, the scientists made use of graphene micro-particles as the middleman of the charge.
The team wrote, “Here, we propose and exhibit a productive methodology for setting off, catching and controlling electrical releases in air. It depends on the utilization of a low-power ceaseless wave vortex beam that traps and transports light-engrossing particles in mid-air.” Obviously, this system hasn’t been yet tested with natural lightning but the results of the study indicate that electrical currents like lightning can be precisely controlled. Shvedov stated that the study induced identical atmospheric conditions as the ones found it natural lightning.
The technology is premature
The tractor beam technology can function over long distances and needs a low-power laser. It makes the system cheap, precise, and easy to assemble. The intensity of the laser was much less than that in the previous experiments. Though the term tractor beam comes from science fiction, and has since been used in shows like Star Trek, the proposed system finds a fitting description. However, it moves lightning instead of the USS Enterprise, but works on similar principles.
Besides controlling lightning, the system can be used in manufacturing and medicinal applications. Physicist Andrey Miroshnichenko, from the University of New South Wales, Canberra says, “We possess an invisible string, a pen that enables us to write light and regulate the electrical discharge to within about 1/10th the width of a human hair. We have just begun to learn what this new technology might mean” The research has been published in Nature Communications.