Tractor beam developed by Australian researchers capable of controlling lightning

CANBERRA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers have developed laser technology capable of controlling where lightning hits the ground.

The international team led by researchers from Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra on Thursday revealed that they have pioneered laser tractor beam technology that is capable of controlling the path and direction of lightning before it strikes.

The major breakthrough has the potential to reduce the risk of catastrophic bushfires in Australia, many of which are sparked by lightning hitting the ground in dry bushland.

Vladlen Shvedov, co-author of the study from ANU's Research School of Physics, said that the laser beam mirrors the same process as lightning, creating a path to direct electric discharges to targets.

"The experiment simulated similar atmospheric conditions to those found in real lightning," he said in a media release.

"We can imagine a future where this technology may induce electrical discharge from passing lightning, helping to guide it to safe targets and reduce the risk of catastrophic fires," said the researcher.

The laser beams by trapping graphene microparticles in the ambient air, creating the necessary conditions for the transmission of electricity along its path.

Andrey Miroshnichenko, co-author from UNSW Canberra, said that in addition to preventing bushfires the technology could also enable micro-scale control of electrical discharge for medical and manufacturing applications.

"We have an invisible thread, a pen with which we can write light and control the electrical discharge to within about one tenth the width of a human hair," he said.

"The medical applications include optical scalpels for the removal of hard cancerous tissue to non-invasive surgery techniques," he said."We are really at the start of learning what this completely new technology might mean." Enditem

[ Editor: SRQ ]