Zap! Laser Acts as Lightning Rod!

Martin Stollberg/TRUMPF

LIGHTNING DEFLECTOR: Scientists installed a laser at the top of a mountain in Switzerland to see if it could successfully attract lightning.

TEST TARGET:This transmitter tower is normally struck by lightning about 100 times a year.

Lightning can cause serious damage when it strikes a building. That’s why towering structures often have a metal lightning rod placed on top. It attracts and channels lightning safely to the ground. Recently, scientists tested a new way to redirect bolts of electricity: a laser—or concentrated beam of light.

The team installed a high-powered laser on top of Mount Säntis in Switzerland and aimed it at the sky during a storm. The laser successfully guided lighting toward a 124-meter (407 foot)-tall tower nearby. The heat produced by the laser’s beam pushes air molecules away from one another. It’s like “drilling a tunnel through the air,” says Aurélien Houard, a physicist at École Polytechnique in France. This creates a path “where the lightning prefers to go.”

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