Tractor Beams have been an element in popular science fiction ever since forever. Many different uses of such technology come to mind when we think of it. However, no one could have thought that a paper would propose such an unexpected application of this hypothetical technology. Reports suggest that real-life scientists are working on an extremely precise laser tractor beam system that can potentially change the path and direction of lightning. The biggest benefit of something like this would probably be in controlling the wildfires raging around the world recently. Reports say that lightning strikes are the leading cause of bushfires in Australia, one of the worst hit countries.
A lightning diversion system could prove extremely helpful in places where there is a high risk of bushfires starting due to one such strike. Tractor Beams in the future could be deployed in such places where they would divert the charge from the source towards a safe target before it can hit the ground. This would be a game-changer in terms of protecting fragile ecosystems. The system proposed in the paper uses a laser beam that mirrors the same process as lightning.
The proposed system can create a path and a specific target for electrical discharge. The physics of lightning is really simple. It is, in fact, just the conduction of current through the air from the point of high negative charge to a point with a high positive charge. The first being the underside of thunderclouds and the latter being the ground. The laser beams set a spot that can take the electrical discharge. In the experiments, the researchers have used graphene microparticles as the mediator of the charge. The researchers aim to make a system that can efficiently trigger, trap, and guide electrical discharges in air.
There have been no real-life tests yet. However, the results that their experiments in their labs have shown are extremely promising. The experiments were designed to mimic the real-life conditions that are expected to be encountered in the wild. The proposed ‘Tractor Beams’ will work over a long distance, and they use a low power laser, which is relatively cheaper. While it may not exactly match the description of tractor beams as shown in science fiction, however, in essence, it is the same thing.
The applications of this technology are not limited to controlling lightning strikes. It can also be used in manufacturing and medicine. The technology is potentially revolutionary and could change how we tend to approach problems in the modern context.