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

Mary P. Humphrey

Lightning strikes can result in considerable injury to structures and crucial infrastructure, these types of as airports. To mitigate this risk, a single EU venture is making an attempt to use impressive laser engineering to handle exactly where lightning strikes. If successful, the resulting laser lightning rod could assistance preserve […]

Lightning strikes can result in considerable injury to structures and crucial infrastructure, these types of as airports. To mitigate this risk, a single EU venture is making an attempt to use impressive laser engineering to handle exactly where lightning strikes. If successful, the resulting laser lightning rod could assistance preserve funds – and life.


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© stnazkul #84059942, resource:stock.adobe.com 2020

It is said that lightning by no means strikes the exact same place 2 times. But just a single strike can be sufficient to result in considerable injury. Not only do lightning strikes get rid of up to 24 000 persons each year, they’re also accountable for electrical power outages, forest fires, and structural injury.

When lightning strikes significant infrastructure and sensitive internet sites like airports and rocket launch pads, the outcome can be billions of euros in injury. To mitigate this risk, the EU-funded LLR venture has set out to do what was the moment thought of not possible: handle lightning. 

“Today’s lightning protection techniques are still based mostly on the lightning rod made by Benjamin Franklin almost three hundred a long time in the past,” suggests Aurélien Houard, a researcher at Ecole Polytechnique in France and LLR (Laser Lighnting Rod) venture coordinator. “Our venture intends to update this concept working with a extremely impressive laser.”

A impressive laser beam

At the heart of the venture is a novel style of laser showcasing a impressive beam. This beam will act as a preferential route for the lightning, diverting it away from potential victims. The distinctive laser will also manual lightning flashes to the ground to discharge the electric powered cost in the clouds.

To illustrate, when installed at an airport, the laser lightning rod would work in conjunction with an early warning radar technique. “Upon the progress of thunderstorm disorders, the laser would be fired toward the cloud to deflect the lightning strike away from aircraft throughout choose-off, landing, taxiing, and ground functions,” explains Houard. “In effect, this would create a safe and sound corridor surrounded – and guarded – by lasers.”

Ground-breaking engineering

To accomplish the essential depth and repetition level, the venture has employed a number of ground-breaking systems. For instance, it utilizes chirped pulse amplification (CPA), the recent-point out-of-the-art technique made use of by most of the world’s significant-electrical power lasers and the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. “CPA is a technique for amplifying an ultrashort laser pulse,” suggests Houard. “It will work by stretching out the laser pulse temporally, amplifying it, and then re-compressing it.”

To supply the limited laser pulses at a significant repetition level of 1 000 shots for every 2nd, the venture group experienced to scale up the laser’s ordinary electrical power. To do this, sophisticated amplification engineering made by Trumpf, a German industrial machine manufacturing company and member of the venture consortium, was made use of.

In accordance to Houard, the power supplied by the technology’s many diodes is concentrated in a extremely slim disk of crystal cooled by water. “When the laser pulse goes however the crystal, the stored power is transferred to the laser pulse by a quantum mechanism known as ‘laser gain’,” he suggests. “The style and design of this slim disk amplifier authorized for an enhance in the electrical power of the ultrashort laser by an buy of magnitude.”

The venture also made an impressive technique for predicting lightning exercise. “Using a mixture of standard knowledge from climate stations and synthetic intelligence, the companions made a new way of predicting lightning strikes in a forecast interval of ten to 30 minutes and in a radius of 30 kilometres,” feedback Houard. “This is the 1st time that a technique based mostly on uncomplicated meteorological knowledge has been able to forecast lightning strikes by actual-time calculations.”

Demonstration planned for 2021

The LLR group is at the moment screening the laser in Paris, with the aim of validating the concept of safely and securely guiding a lightning strike to the ground by projecting a extensive-selection beam into the environment.

A closing demonstration of the LLR concept is set to choose place on Mt. Säntis in Switzerland, which is household to a Swisscom tower that is struck by lightning about 100 instances each year. The demonstration is planned for 2021. Adhering to a successful demonstration, the venture group is self-confident that the technique will be prepared for whole commercialisation in a number of a long time.

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