Super laser to conduct lightning strikes on Säntis

20 July 2021 12:09

Supporting partner

Säntis – A laser-based lightning rod has been put into operation on the Säntis mountain in north-eastern Switzerland. Trumpf and the University of Geneva are conducting weather experiments here. The aim here is for lightning strikes from thunderclouds to be conducted in a targeted and controlled manner.

With the installation of a super laser on the Säntis mountain, the high-tech firm Trumpf Scientific Lasers from Unterföhring on the edge of Munich and the University of Geneva have launched experiments for a laser-based lightning conductor. This work is being carried out as part of the Laser Lightning Rod project organized by the EU. According to a press release, the project partners are expecting that the first results from the experiments being conducted under the watchful eye of the weather researcher Professor Jean-Pierre Wolf from the University of Geneva will be available towards the end of the summer. For Trumpf, the laser engineer Clemens Herkommer is responsible for setting up and carrying out the experiments. He developed this super laser especially for this project over the past four years.

According to the press release, the weather experiments aim to conduct lightning strikes from thunderclouds in a targeted, controlled manner. In future, this could prevent damage from uncontrolled lightning strikes. “We shoot into the clouds with a thousand laser pulses per second with the aim of rendering lightning strikes harmless, thereby making the world a little bit safer", explains Herkommer. This form of laser bombardment creates a kind of channel, known as the laser filament. This leaves the lightning with no option other than to hit the ground in a controlled manner through the defined channel.

For the installation, the nine-meter-long and five-ton laser had to be transported to the summit of the Säntis. It was dismantled into several individual parts and brought to the summit by cable car and helicopter at the end of May 2021. The Säntis mountain was chosen as the location because of hundreds of lightning strikes there during the peak phase of thunderstorm activity in midsummer.

The development of the laser system cost around 2 million euros. The project is funded by the EU's Cordis research program.

In addition to Trumpf Scientific Lasers, the University of Geneva, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the consulting firm AMC, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), aerospace experts the Ariane Group and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES) were all involved in the project too.

Swiss Pavilion Digital