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

Lightning strikes can bring about sizeable harm to buildings and crucial infrastructure, this sort of as airports. To mitigate this danger, 1 EU challenge is making an attempt to use powerful laser technological know-how to management where by lightning strikes. If productive, the ensuing laser lightning rod could aid preserve income – and life.


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It is mentioned that lightning by no means strikes the exact location twice. But just 1 strike can be plenty of to bring about sizeable harm. Not only do lightning strikes get rid of up to 24 000 folks each individual calendar year, they’re also liable for electricity outages, forest fires, and structural harm.

When lightning strikes important infrastructure and delicate web sites like airports and rocket start pads, the consequence can be billions of euros in harm. To mitigate this danger, the EU-funded LLR challenge has established out to do what was as soon as regarded as unachievable: management lightning. 

“Today’s lightning safety devices are nevertheless centered on the lightning rod created by Benjamin Franklin virtually three hundred a long time back,” claims Aurélien Houard, a researcher at Ecole Polytechnique in France and LLR (Laser Lighnting Rod) challenge coordinator. “Our challenge intends to update this concept working with a pretty powerful laser.”

A powerful laser beam

At the heart of the challenge is a novel sort of laser showcasing a powerful beam. This beam will act as a preferential path for the lightning, diverting it away from opportunity victims. The exceptional laser will also guide lightning flashes to the floor to discharge the electric powered charge in the clouds.

To illustrate, when mounted at an airport, the laser lightning rod would run in conjunction with an early warning radar system. “Upon the development of thunderstorm conditions, the laser would be fired towards the cloud to deflect the lightning strike away from plane during consider-off, landing, taxiing, and floor operations,” points out Houard. “In result, this would make a risk-free corridor surrounded – and safeguarded – by lasers.”

Ground-breaking technological know-how

To attain the necessary intensity and repetition charge, the challenge has utilized a quantity of floor-breaking systems. For illustration, it takes advantage of chirped pulse amplification (CPA), the present-state-of-the-artwork system made use of by most of the world’s high-electricity lasers and the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. “CPA is a system for amplifying an ultrashort laser pulse,” claims Houard. “It operates by stretching out the laser pulse temporally, amplifying it, and then re-compressing it.”

To deliver the limited laser pulses at a high repetition charge of 1 000 photographs for every second, the challenge group had to scale up the laser’s typical electricity. To do this, innovative amplification technological know-how created by Trumpf, a German industrial equipment manufacturing firm and member of the challenge consortium, was made use of.

In accordance to Houard, the strength supplied by the technology’s many diodes is concentrated in a pretty slim disk of crystal cooled by water. “When the laser pulse goes even though the crystal, the stored strength is transferred to the laser pulse by way of a quantum mechanism known as ‘laser gain’,” he claims. “The style and design of this slim disk amplifier authorized for an enhance in the electricity of the ultrashort laser by an order of magnitude.”

The challenge also created an revolutionary system for predicting lightning activity. “Using a blend of typical data from climate stations and artificial intelligence, the partners created a new way of predicting lightning strikes inside a forecast interval of 10 to thirty minutes and inside a radius of thirty kilometres,” reviews Houard. “This is the first time that a system centered on simple meteorological data has been ready to predict lightning strikes by way of genuine-time calculations.”

Demonstration planned for 2021

The LLR group is currently tests the laser in Paris, with the goal of validating the concept of properly guiding a lightning strike to the floor by projecting a long-range beam into the environment.

A remaining demonstration of the LLR concept is established to consider location on Mt. Säntis in Switzerland, which is household to a Swisscom tower that is struck by lightning above one hundred times each individual calendar year. The demonstration is planned for 2021. Adhering to a productive demonstration, the challenge group is confident that the system will be completely ready for complete commercialisation inside a couple of a long time.