Research ArticleOPTICS

Laser-assisted guiding of electric discharges around objects

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Science Advances  19 Jun 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 5, e1400111
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400111


Electric breakdown in air occurs for electric fields exceeding 34 kV/cm and results in a large current surge that propagates along unpredictable trajectories. Guiding such currents across specific paths in a controllable manner could allow protection against lightning strikes and high-voltage capacitor discharges. Such capabilities can be used for delivering charge to specific targets, for electronic jamming, or for applications associated with electric welding and machining. We show that judiciously shaped laser radiation can be effectively used to manipulate the discharge along a complex path and to produce electric discharges that unfold along a predefined trajectory. Remarkably, such laser-induced arcing can even circumvent an object that completely occludes the line of sight.

  • Laser ionization
  • Electric discharges
  • Beam shaping
  • Plasma

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