Can Humans Control Lightning?

Lightning is a powerful force of nature and scientists are working on harnessing that power. Will we ever be able to control lightning?

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Since Benjamin Franklin first flew his kite into the stormy sky centuries ago, we've be fascinated by the idea of harnessing the power of lightning. About 100 lightning bolts strike Earth's surface every single second, with a force of a billion volts of electricity each. With the chance of lightning increasing with global warming, scientists are wondering if collecting this energy would be possible. Scientists are working on controlling lightning with lasers.

In a study recently published in the journal Science Advances, researchers harnessed some control over the trajectory of an electrical charge when they fired a charge between two electrodes that were a few centimeters apart. A laser fired through that electrical charge to guide its path. Since lasers ionize the air, as a charge goes between the electrodes, it follows the path of the least resistance, which is along the trajectory determined by the laser beam. They were successful, but it was only on the scale of a few centimeters which is a long way away from the distances needed to effectively control lightning.

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Learn More:

Lightning expected to increase by 50 percent with global warming (Science Daily)
"Atmospheric scientists looked at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and concluded that their combined effect will generate 50 percent more electrical discharges to the ground by the end of the century because of global warming."

Lightning directed by laser beams (New Scientist)
"The idea of using a powerful laser to create a low-resistance path through the atmosphere - a virtual lightning rod - gained momentum in the 1990s. Lasers were developed that could generate terawatts (trillions of watts) of power for femtoseconds (millionths of billionths of a second)."