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

Lightning strikes can induce considerable damage to properties and critical infrastructure, such as airports. To mitigate this risk, a person EU task is making an attempt to use effective laser technological innovation to management exactly where lightning strikes. If profitable, the resulting laser lightning rod could support preserve dollars – and life.


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It is reported that lightning by no means strikes the exact place 2 times. But just a person strike can be sufficient to induce considerable damage. Not only do lightning strikes eliminate up to 24 000 men and women every calendar year, they’re also liable for energy outages, forest fires, and structural damage.

When lightning strikes critical infrastructure and sensitive web-sites like airports and rocket launch pads, the result can be billions of euros in damage. To mitigate this risk, the EU-funded LLR task has set out to do what was at the time regarded as impossible: management lightning. 

“Today’s lightning protection programs are nonetheless dependent on the lightning rod formulated by Benjamin Franklin pretty much 300 yrs ago,” suggests Aurélien Houard, a researcher at Ecole Polytechnique in France and LLR (Laser Lighnting Rod) task coordinator. “Our task intends to update this concept applying a quite effective laser.”

A effective laser beam

At the heart of the task is a novel style of laser that includes a effective beam. This beam will act as a preferential route for the lightning, diverting it away from probable victims. The exceptional laser will also guidebook lightning flashes to the floor to discharge the electric powered cost in the clouds.

To illustrate, when installed at an airport, the laser lightning rod would function in conjunction with an early warning radar program. “Upon the advancement of thunderstorm circumstances, the laser would be fired towards the cloud to deflect the lightning strike away from plane throughout just take-off, landing, taxiing, and floor functions,” clarifies Houard. “In outcome, this would make a risk-free corridor surrounded – and shielded – by lasers.”

Ground-breaking technological innovation

To realize the needed depth and repetition charge, the task has employed a selection of floor-breaking technologies. For case in point, it works by using chirped pulse amplification (CPA), the latest-condition-of-the-artwork approach made use of by most of the world’s substantial-energy lasers and the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. “CPA is a approach for amplifying an ultrashort laser pulse,” suggests Houard. “It operates by stretching out the laser pulse temporally, amplifying it, and then re-compressing it.”

To provide the brief laser pulses at a substantial repetition charge of 1 000 shots per second, the task crew had to scale up the laser’s ordinary energy. To do this, state-of-the-art amplification technological innovation formulated by Trumpf, a German industrial equipment manufacturing enterprise and member of the task consortium, was made use of.

According to Houard, the vitality supplied by the technology’s quite a few diodes is concentrated in a quite thin disk of crystal cooled by water. “When the laser pulse goes though the crystal, the saved vitality is transferred to the laser pulse as a result of a quantum mechanism identified as ‘laser gain’,” he suggests. “The design and style of this thin disk amplifier authorized for an enhance in the energy of the ultrashort laser by an buy of magnitude.”

The task also formulated an innovative program for predicting lightning action. “Using a combination of standard data from weather stations and artificial intelligence, the partners formulated a new way of predicting lightning strikes in just a forecast interval of 10 to thirty minutes and in just a radius of thirty kilometres,” opinions Houard. “This is the initial time that a program dependent on basic meteorological data has been in a position to forecast lightning strikes as a result of genuine-time calculations.”

Demonstration prepared for 2021

The LLR crew is at the moment testing the laser in Paris, with the aim of validating the concept of safely and securely guiding a lightning strike to the floor by projecting a prolonged-range beam into the ambiance.

A last demonstration of the LLR concept is set to just take place on Mt. Säntis in Switzerland, which is dwelling to a Swisscom tower that is struck by lightning more than one hundred periods every calendar year. The demonstration is prepared for 2021. Subsequent a profitable demonstration, the task crew is self-confident that the program will be completely ready for complete commercialisation in just a handful of yrs.