Army Developing Laser That Shoots Lightning

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Photo of the LIPC in development. (credit: U.S. Army)

Photo of the LIPC in development. (credit: U.S. Army)

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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (CBSDC) – Soon, superheroes such as Thor won’t be the only ones who are able to use lightning to destroy their target.

U.S. Army personnel at Picatinny Arsenal are developing a military weapon that is able to shoot lightning bolts down laser beams, destroying any potential target with enough power to fuel a large metropolitan city.

The development of the Laser-Induced Plasma Channel comes as the military places more emphasis on eliminating targets that conduct electricity at a better rate than their environmental surroundings in the air and on the ground, according to the U.S. Army.

“We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated (targets),” George Fischer, the lead scientist on the project, told Army.mil.

Though the actual time of the lightning only goes for two-trillionths of a second, the amount of energy generated by the LIPC is jaw-dropping, estimated to be more than enough power to fuel a large city, Fisher said.

“If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge,” Fischer said. “During the duration of the laser pulse, it can be putting out more power than a large city needs, but the pulse only lasts for two-trillionths of a second.”

The lightning, which equates to 50 billion watts of optical power, is still in development mode as scientists continue to hammer out details for how to synchronize the LIPC with the high voltage, toughen up the device to survive extreme conditions and make the LIPC sustainable for the long term.

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