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

Lightning strikes can cause sizeable harm to properties and essential infrastructure, this sort of as airports. To mitigate this possibility, just one EU challenge is trying to use potent laser know-how to management exactly where lightning strikes. If thriving, the ensuing laser lightning rod could enable save money – and lives.


© stnazkul #84059942, 2020

It is said that lightning in no way strikes the exact place two times. But just just one strike can be plenty of to cause sizeable harm. Not only do lightning strikes get rid of up to 24 000 men and women just about every yr, they’re also dependable for electric power outages, forest fires, and structural harm.

When lightning strikes critical infrastructure and delicate web pages like airports and rocket launch pads, the result can be billions of euros in harm. To mitigate this possibility, the EU-funded LLR challenge has established out to do what was at the time thought of difficult: management lightning. 

“Today’s lightning protection units are even now centered on the lightning rod produced by Benjamin Franklin almost three hundred many years ago,” suggests Aurélien Houard, a researcher at Ecole Polytechnique in France and LLR (Laser Lighnting Rod) challenge coordinator. “Our challenge intends to update this strategy employing a extremely potent laser.”

A potent laser beam

At the coronary heart of the challenge is a novel type of laser showcasing a potent beam. This beam will act as a preferential route for the lightning, diverting it absent from opportunity victims. The exceptional laser will also information lightning flashes to the floor to discharge the electrical charge in the clouds.

To illustrate, when installed at an airport, the laser lightning rod would run in conjunction with an early warning radar system. “Upon the enhancement of thunderstorm situations, the laser would be fired towards the cloud to deflect the lightning strike absent from plane during choose-off, landing, taxiing, and floor operations,” points out Houard. “In impact, this would create a harmless corridor surrounded – and safeguarded – by lasers.”

Ground-breaking know-how

To accomplish the vital intensity and repetition amount, the challenge has employed a quantity of floor-breaking systems. For example, it makes use of chirped pulse amplification (CPA), the existing-state-of-the-art strategy utilized by most of the world’s large-electric power lasers and the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. “CPA is a strategy for amplifying an ultrashort laser pulse,” suggests Houard. “It works by stretching out the laser pulse temporally, amplifying it, and then re-compressing it.”

To deliver the quick laser pulses at a large repetition amount of 1 000 pictures for each next, the challenge team experienced to scale up the laser’s average electric power. To do this, sophisticated amplification know-how produced by Trumpf, a German industrial equipment production organization and member of the challenge consortium, was utilized.

In accordance to Houard, the energy supplied by the technology’s many diodes is concentrated in a extremely slender disk of crystal cooled by h2o. “When the laser pulse goes nevertheless the crystal, the stored energy is transferred to the laser pulse by way of a quantum system referred to as ‘laser gain’,” he suggests. “The layout of this slender disk amplifier allowed for an increase in the electric power of the ultrashort laser by an get of magnitude.”

The challenge also produced an modern system for predicting lightning activity. “Using a mixture of conventional details from weather stations and artificial intelligence, the companions produced a new way of predicting lightning strikes inside a forecast interval of ten to thirty minutes and inside a radius of thirty kilometres,” feedback Houard. “This is the very first time that a system centered on uncomplicated meteorological details has been equipped to predict lightning strikes by way of actual-time calculations.”

Demonstration prepared for 2021

The LLR team is at the moment screening the laser in Paris, with the aim of validating the strategy of safely and securely guiding a lightning strike to the floor by projecting a very long-variety beam into the environment.

A ultimate demonstration of the LLR strategy is established to choose place on Mt. Säntis in Switzerland, which is home to a Swisscom tower that is struck by lightning around a hundred situations just about every yr. The demonstration is prepared for 2021. Next a thriving demonstration, the challenge team is confident that the system will be prepared for whole commercialisation inside a several many years.