“Gumby” Laser Beams may Bend Lightning

April 11, 2009

(ChattahBox)— Scientists at the University of Arizona, Tuscon have developed a way to create curved laser beams, which have promising applications to steer lightning away from tall buildings, protecting them from dangerous lightning strikes. Conducting experiments right out of the pages of a science fiction novel, scientists created curved “plasma channels,” allowing them to bend light beams. When the curved beams are directed at an object they bend around it, at the blink of an eye, appearing as if the beams pass right through it. This new technology definitely has a very cool, “wow” factor.

Lead researcher, Jerome Moloney and his colleagues, created the curved beams, by combining an Airy beam and a high-intensity pulse beam, which they maneuvered with a lens. An Airy beam, already bends, because it is made up of a combination of waves that ebb and flow.

The newly created curved plasma channels may now allow scientists to direct the flow of lightning, when shot from the ground into clouds. The plasma channels are not affected by rain or other atmospheric elements, making them ideal for weather related uses.

Scientists see other applications for the curved laser beams, including making optical chips, and for accelerating charged particles to use in colliders or atom smashers.

Physicist Jérôme Kasparian, of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, is also working on experiments with curved beams to deflect lightning. He doesn’t think the technology would allow the development of laser weapons that could shoot through walls, but he isn’t about to doubt the Military’s creativity to come up with a way to use the technology to create a weapon.

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