Over at Picatinny Arsenal, the research and development facility and proving ground for the U.S. Army's weaponry, engineers are developing a device that shoots lighting bolts along a laser beam to annihilate its target. That's right: lighting bolts shot down laser beams. This story could easily end right here and still be the coolest thing we've written today, but for the scientifically curious we'll continue.
The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) can be used to destroy anything that conducts electricity better than the air or ground surrounding it (unexploded ordnance seems a good candidate here). It works off of some pretty basic principles of physics, using a laser to carve an electromagnetic path through the air that accommodates a high-voltage beam. Create that path, crank up the voltage, and your target is toast.
It works like this: a high intensity, super-short duration (maybe two-trillionths of a second) laser pulse will actually use air like lens--surrounding air focuses the beam, keeping the laser pulse nice and tight rather than scattering it. If the pulse is strong enough, it actually creates an electromagnetic field around itself that's so powerful it strips electrons from air molecules, essentially creating a channel of plasma through the air. Since air is composed of neutral particles (that act as insulators) and the plasma channel is a good conductor (relative to the un-ionized air around it) the path of the laser beam becomes a kind of filament.
In other words, just as lightning arcs from cloud to ground via the path of least resistance, a high-voltage current will find its way down this filament rather than arcing unpredictably through the air. In other words, the laser just creates the path of least resistance between the power source and the target. Laser, lightning, destruction of target--in that order.
Of course, the LIPC requires a lot of hardware, like a laser capable of really short pulses and a power source to provide both laser and lightning. In other words, it's not very practical (as with most laser weapons, it suffers comparatively from the fact that bullets fly straight, have a long shelf life, are easy to carry, and are really cheap). But a laser-guided lightning weapon? It doesn't have to be practical to be amazing.
In other words you should be bound and determined not to use cliches............
another skill to add to my lightbending techniques.
and also, I CAN REDIRECT LIGHTING WITH LIGHTBENDING!!!??!??!?!?! could this day get any better?
This device is both scary and cool!
Every day is a new day!
This is not "new" technology apart from it's adaptation into a weapon. This takes it roots from researchers being able to redirect a lightening bolt mid-strike with an infrared laser.
There is a popsci article about the same thing, but lets use an external source for once. :D
It would be very simple to use this technology to redirect a lightening bolt into a large filament array submersed in water. Lightening hits, and vaporizes the water = instant power generation (if not infrequent power generation).
Sadly the coolest technology gets adapted into weapons for destructive purposes, even when the power they yield can fuel progress and construction considerably.
This is the perfect weapon for the bad guys. Shoot planes down from 10 - 100 miles away. I'm suprised it isn't being done already and I hope never does.
i wounder if they can adapt it to use a stun gun or a tazer as the source for the lightning.
Is this the same LIPC being developed by Ionatron?
I think this is cool, it makes a good science experiment and it may have non-military applications like long distance power transmission or something like that. The problem with lasers and plasma weapons like this is I think they're easily defeated in a military application. How would a laser work against targets covered in a reflective skin? How would a plasma weapon like this work against fiberglass, plastic, rubber, etc.? You don't need tons of armor, just the right coating on the outer surface and the weapon is rendered useless.
i believe a powerful laser is not reflected by a mirror for long and an intense electric bolt would burn through most things, very cool tech, cheers
"The same way I solve all of my problems, by shooting at it with lighting!"
Ohq they have invented the wireless taser
Wouldn't the 50 billion watt output solve our energy problems?
The U.S. doesn't have energy problems. But, this is a general human issue that poises to effect us all in a not so foreseeable future (which is not reason to forego doing something about it as soon as humanly possible).
The issue with laser based weapons platforms is they are brand new. The technology is not advanced enough to mass produce by the thousands at a relatively cheap rate. However, the same could be said about machine guns, airplanes, and ships. These technological pieces are popped off of assembly lines like sheets of paper spewing from a printer.
It may not be now or 20 years in the future, but there will come a time where this technology will be miniaturized and mass produced. Then energy based weapons will make projectile based weapons (bullets, bombs, missiles) obsolete in modern warfare, and only collectibles for those passionate about antiquities or utilizing ancient weapons for recreational purposes (e.g. fencing; no one really uses swords conventionally anymore).
"It's not just science. It's never just science. It's a weapon." -- John Crighton
That's just the way we are. Scientist postulate theories of natural science that someone brilliant enough to understand the concept (an engineer) can find practical application to use the concept in the real world. The divide is where you get a group of engineers together on a scientific concept. One sees a device. Another sees a process or protocol to govern functions of already existing devices. Another sees a weapon, and yet another sees a defense against a weapon.
"Hidden in the subconscious is an insatiable lust for conflict." -- James Moriarty, Ph.D
To overcome the human condition requires overcoming the human condition. We'd have to evolve beyond the human state before we can change the way we behave. The world is a bit of better place on the surface for the progress civilization has made over the thousands of years of existence. Even if things beneath the surface aren't so great, they could be worse. They could be how they were in the past.
If a lightning bolt generated from machine can follow a laser to a destination, is it possible to shine a powerful enough laser into a storm cloud to harness power from lightning storms?
A lightsaber can indeed be used to protect yourself from lightning bolts. Yoda wouldn't have steered us wrong on that.
A lightning laser magnetically-pinched-nuclear-fusion power-generator is described in the Nasa Create The Future Design Engineering Contest entry May 17, 2012 where a lightning laser is used to capture real lightning from the sky which is then used to ignite nuclear fusion reactions! Atrificial lightning generated by a tesla coil is sent along ionized channels of air which were ionized by an ultraviolet or other lasers into the clouds and ionosphere to discharge available lightning which then travels down the lightning laser ionized path beam to a magnetically confined fusion generator. The captured real lightning is transformed to higher amperages which are used to magnetically pinch deuterium-tritium creating supersonic shock waves that ignite the fuel while it is confined in a magnetic bottle.
SHOCKING! Simply SHOCKING! Alex Ingram
Now I am laughing, and so would my Usernames-sake.
In the words of Dempsey, "Allright, a good, old-fashioned lightning gun!"
Materializer, 1 nice name, and 2 what were to happen if we were to be able to build this thing and, say, a mini sun appears, creating a powerful grav flux to throw everything away or towards it? You would have to have two of these little fusion reactors just to keep the gravity from destroying everything. And why not just use the lightning as its own battery? use cloud seeding to produce big storms over a single area, and force the lighting down a magnetized barrel, which would be designed to drag power from the bolts as they come down. We wont be able to get ALL of them, lightning is just too fast and powerful, but then we have the quantity vs. quality. Big enough storm could have a few hundred bolts, and if we seed it to be negative every time, we can pull a good bit of power from said bolts.
JellyBelly, planes get struck by lightning all the time, and don't crash. If bad guys were to weaponize this, the worst they could do was scratch the paint. To be effective, the plane would have to be on the ground, that is why birds can stand on a power cable and not become barbeque, they are not GROUNDED.
this looks like a rehash of tesla's death beam. (interesting)
Bullets do not fly in a straight line. They fly in an arc. As anyone with an understanding of motion in a gravity field knows.
In order to hit a target at over 1000 meters, there is essentially a trigonometric problem that has to be solved.
The appeal of laser weapons is that they do travel in a straight line.
Its cool , but can be easily avoided with a faraday cage( On the soldier clothing , maybe ? ).