Could lasers work as lightning rods?

Posted on October 14, 2015 by heightw in Blog Entry

Lightning rods have been used for centuries to protect properties from lightning strikes. Benjamin Franklin came up with the principle in 1749 and spent years refining a system for domestic use. By 1760 he had done so, and since then the systems have been installed on all kinds of structures all around the world. They became even more important with the creation of the skyscraper as the height of the buildings increased their risk of being struck.

A lightning rod is a basic component in a protection system. They are made from conductive metals, typically copper and its alloys. The rods come in many different forms, shapes and sizes and are positioned strategically so they are likely to be struck if lightning occurs. The rods are connected to cables that give the electricity a clean path to flow down the side of a property. These connect to grounding anchors so that the energy can be dispersed safely.

Lightning protection systems have changed very little over the years, but researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel have developed a system using a laser. They theorised that lasers leave a trail of plasma that would conduct electricity and allow the current from lightning to be redirected effectively. Firing the laser once leaves the trail but it only lasts for a few nanoseconds before dissipating. A second firing is needed to keep the plasma hot and extend the time the trail remains. Subsequent firings can take place as long as you have the right set-up and enough power.

The research shows that lasers could be used for lightning protection and may effectively redirect current. This would provide more flexibility than a fixed rod and traditional system. The only downsides are that the system would require more energy and care would need to be taken when firing the laser.

As professional lightning rod installers, we enjoy seeing developments in the lightning protection industry. However, it seems that lasers such as these are unlikely to replace traditional systems as the fact that the technology is in its infancy and will be more costly than traditional rods. We will continue to offer our expertise to clients to help them defend their properties from lightning in the most effective ways.

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