The Laser Lightning Rod project

T. Produit, T. Produit, P. Walch, C. Herkommer, A. Mostajabi, M. Moret, U. Andral, A. Sunjerga, M. Azadifar, Y.-B. André, B. Mahieu, W. Haas, B. Esmiller, G. Fournier, P. Krötz, T. Metzger, K. Michel, A. Mysyrowicz, M. Rubinstein, F. Rachidi, J. Kasparian, J.-P. Wolf, A. Houard, “The Laser Lightning Rod project,” The European Physical Journal, Applied Physics 92, 30501 (2020)

Lightning is highly destructive due to its high power density and unpredictable character. Directing lightning away would allow to protect sensitive sites from its direct and indirect impacts (electromagnetic perturbations). Up to now, lasers have been unable to guide lightning efficiently since they were not offering simultaneously terawatt peak powers and kHz repetition rates. In the framework of the Laser Lightning Rod project, we develop a laser system for lightning control, with J-range pulses of 1 ps duration at 1 kHz. The project aims at investigating its propagation in the multiple filamentation regime and its ability to control high-voltage discharges. In particular, a field campaign at the Säntis mountain will assess the laser ability to trigger upward lightning.

(a) Principle of the general layout of the laser experiment implementation at Säntis (not to scale). (b) Schematic drawing of the sending telescope.

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