Scientists used a massive laser to deflect lightning

Scientists were able to create a virtual lightning rod using a large, powerful laser atop a mountain in Switzerland, successfully diverting the path of lightning strikes.

Lightning deflection technology hasn’t changed much since Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod in 1752. The Franklin rod, or a pointed metal mast on top of buildings and

other structures vulnerable to lightning strikes, works by intercepting lightning and guiding the strikes safely to the ground. But the protection zone of Franklin rods is

relative to their height — a lightning rod with a height of 10 meters (32.8 feet) protects an area with a 10-meter radius. Since the height of lightning rods isn’t

infinite, broad ranges such as airports, launchpads, power stations, wind farms and nuclear power plants pose a challenge. Lightning causes up to 24,000 deaths a year and can

cause power cuts, forest fires and damage infrastructure, according to a study detailing the findings published Monday in the journal Nature Photonics. Scientists decided

to test if a laser beam pointed at the sky could act like one big virtual and movable lightning rod. Previous research has supported the idea that laser pulses could influence the

trajectory of lightning strikes, but that work had only been carried out inside a lab. A laser the size of a large car was installed near a telecommunications tower on the

summit of Mount Säntis in northeastern Switzerland. Lightning strikes the tower about 100 times a year.