Search Menu
Photonics Media Photonics Buyers' Guide Photonics Spectra BioPhotonics EuroPhotonics Vision Spectra Photonics Showcase Photonics ProdSpec Photonics Handbook
More News

Beyond Franklin’s Kite

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Comments
Dan Drollette, Senior Editor

When scientists at Hydro-Quebec, one of Canada's largest power companies, want to see how a piece of electrical equipment holds up under the blast of a lightning bolt -- which can go as high as 300,000 amperes -- they plop it down in the middle of a field during a thunderstorm in Florida, the most lightning-prone part of North America. They place a rocket containing a spool of wire cable next to the test object; when launched, the wire unrolls to create a short-lived connection between test site and static-filled sky.

Once everything is in place, the researchers run for the safety of a nearby underground bunker.


Then they fire the rocket and hope they've timed their shot correctly. If they have, hundreds of millions of volts will descend from the cloud to travel at close to half the speed of light through their equipment. If they've miscalculated their shot, they must go back to the launchpad and do it all over again.

Scientists at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Varennes, Quebec, are working in conjunction with the Varennes-based division of Hydro-Quebec to develop a different approach to handling lightning. Instead of designing and field-testing equipment that is lightning-proof, their goal is to make a laser system that diverts lightning away from high-priority targets such as power lines, airports, space shuttles and nuclear power plants. To carry out their research, the team of physicists creates lightning at will under safe, controlled conditions in a specially designed high-voltage laboratory that resembles a 17-story-tall cube.

Photonics Spectra
Nov 1999

back to top
Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube RSS
©2019 Photonics Media, 100 West St., Pittsfield, MA, 01201 USA,

Photonics Media, Laurin Publishing
x Subscribe to Photonics Spectra magazine - FREE!
We use cookies to improve user experience and analyze our website traffic as stated in our Privacy Policy. By using this website, you agree to the use of cookies unless you have disabled them.