This rapid-fire laser diverts lightning strikes

Elizabeth Gibney in Nature:

A rapidly firing laser can divert lightning strikes, scientists have shown for the first time in real-world experiments1. The work suggests that laser beams could be used as lightning rods to protect infrastructure, although perhaps not any time soon. “The achievement is impressive given that the scientific community has been working hard along this objective for more than 20 years,” says Stelios Tzortzakis, a laser physicist at the University of Crete, Greece, who was not involved in the research. “If it’s useful or not, only time can say.”

Metal lightning rods are commonly used to divert lightning strikes and safely dissipate their charge. But the rods’ size is limited, meaning that so, too, is the area they protect. Physicists have wondered whether lasers could enhance protection, because they can reach higher into the sky than a physical structure and can point in any direction. But despite successful laboratory demonstrations, researchers have never before succeeded in field campaigns, says Tzortzakis.

More here.