We may soon use lasers to redirect lightning strikes

If there's one thing you should know about Engadget, it's that we absolutely love lasers. And thanks to the University of Arizona and University of Central Florida, our favorite pulsating form of light might soon find a much less destructive purpose, than say on Navy ships, anti-missile airliners and X-Men goggles. Instead of using a lightning rod to transport the average bolt of lightning (and its 1 billion joules of energy) safely into the ground, researchers believe that by using specially designed laser beams, the path of Zeus' thunderbolt can be redirected entirely.

Lasers, when traveling through air, leave an ionized gas (plasma) with little to no electric charge. And since lightning travels in the path of least resistance, its charge would theoretically be given a new course. To accomplish such a feat, two different lasers must work together to form what's known as an "externally refuelled optical filament." The first, lower-power beam cuts through the atmosphere, while the second, higher-power beam "refuels" the other so that it doesn't lose focus. What's the catch? So far, those in white coats have only produced a working plasma that's seven feet long since the team started creating curved laser beams in 2009. But refined, this technology could offer much more efficient lightning protection. Who knows, we might be one step closer to harvesting the power of thunderstorms.