Army Scientists Shoot Lightning With Lasers

| 29 Jun 2012 20:41
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Sadly, the device does not also shoot shurikens.

The cruel reality of military technology is that we may never have the type of energy weaponry we see in fiction - no Star Wars blasters, no Gundam beam rifles, and no Halo plasma rifles. Instead, energy weapons are more subtle or practical, like focusing heat to blind sensors or rupture armored plating. In less subtle or practical matters, however, US Army scientists have figured out how to fry targets with guided lightning.

Researchers at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey have developed a method to control one of the most impressive of all meteorological phenomena: the thunderbolt. Lightning, as with all electrical charges, naturally travels from the clouds to the earth taking the path of least resistance. The trick, then, involves creating the least-resistant path possible - and that's done with lasers.

"If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge," said project lead George Fisher. The laser pulse in question comes from an optical amplifier with an output of 50 billion watts - enough to power a large city - but it only lasts for two trillionths of a second. The air surrounding the pulse acts "like a lens," keeping the pulse focused like a lightbulb filament.

The electromagnetic field of the super-intense pulse tears electrons from the air molecules, creating a channel of plasma along the laser's path that can be directed by aiming a mirror. That ionized air, then, becomes the path of least resistance for an electrical pulse - so if a high-voltage source is nearby, it will follow the channel exactly to its target. Zap.

While the ability to shoot lightning down a laser is just kind of awesome in itself, it could be used to destroy enemy armored vehicles or detonate stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, says Fisher. "We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated [targets]."

There are still many, many issues to work out with the technology before this could ever potentially see use on the battlefield. The laser and voltage source must be synchronized, the device must withstand the wear and tear of operational military use, and you don't just get 50 billion watts of energy from a few AA batteries.

But it's still a contraption that shoots lightning at people.

Source & Image: Army.mil

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bladester1:

RaNDM G:
It's a gun that shoots lightning. How can the military NOT want this?

Yea really, this will be helpful for getting rid of IED that can be detonated.

You know, that's brilliant. Also for clearing minefields.

Evilsanta:
Fucking awesome.

That is all.

OT: Well damn, The future is just coming closer isn't it? Now where is my flying car!? HUH!? MR.SCIENTIST!

On the record: Helicopters

Off the record: The Aerocar

And now back to the story developing...

Holy fucking shit, this is maddening, now we can pretend to be fucking Zeus! Now if only we could get a combination car/submarine/airplane going, that would make traveling fun.

teqrevisited:
And so C&C:Red Alert comes one step closer to reality. Minus, you know, the whole Einstein travelling back in time and frying dear old Adolf with his magic science hands.

Soon we will stand invincible.

Can we get personal Tesla Coils to place atop our houses and if there's someone you don't like coming, you zap them?

Binnsyboy:

And the zap-o-matic.

Forget the shuriken. We need to find a way to attach radio speakers to this thing and have that playing while we fry terrorist, and then it will be perfect!

This thing should be called Mjolnir! After thors hammer!

There's nothin' like a fistful o' lightnin' now is there.

Well, it looks like science has made another shocking discovery...

How is blasters inpractical? Pug a batter into your gun. Have enough juise for whole fight. Dont need to relaod in the middle. Also, less collateral damage (blaster "bullets" dont bounce).

What exactly was the recent progress?

Awesome. Another piece of sci-fi; sorted. So what's next on the list?

Legendsmith:
I fail to see what's so exciting; electro-lasers aren't exactly news.

I suppose that people are also unaware that there are prototypes of nuclear powered drones and that Australia has a plasma drive?

Understandably, we keep some of these fun "new" technology under wraps until they are almost done. Some people might assume that the Army was just wasting money building something that would never work, so no funding for you. Now no one can say it will not work because "here is new prototype showing that it can work rather well".

Sadly, that is how a lot of good projects get cancelled. The US civilian infrastructure is vulnerable to an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack because many US Senators said, to the scientists, that it "sounded like Science fiction", so no money for you. Never mind that the Military infrastructure is harden to resist an EMP, Congress only gets a say on what you spend when you tell them about it.

In other words, if the terrorist do get their hands on a nuclear bomb, hope they waste it on a city. That is only a few million casualties and maybe a trillion dollars in damages. If they manage to get it up 25 miles above the earths surface then, no more of ANY electronics within a 2500 mile radius. No cars or trucks running supplies, No radio telling people where too go for evacuation, No working hospital equipment (other than non-powered, of course). The lower estimates are in the 80-100 million range for casualties (between starvation and civil unrest) and almost a Quadrillion (1000 trillion) dollars in damages.

Darn, I like too rattle on and on. How did I even get on this subject?

w00tage:
And this is why I read sci-fi.

This is almost EXACTLY what you're looking at here. http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20071126

I fixed the url for you the (.) on the end was giving me a broken link error.

OT: You are right it will be exactly like that and that is what we will use it for too. BLOWING UP TANKS YEHAA.

{Singing}And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know free. {/singing}

I love my Army. Also to think, in 50 years (with proper licenses I am sure) I will be able to go deer hunting with this. That's right deer hunting with a lightning gun. God, thank you for the second amendment to the US constitution.

EEEHHHHEHEEHE (happy fan girl squeal, I know I am a guy but still I can squeal like a girl with a crush)

RaNDM G:
It's a gun that shoots lightning. How can the military NOT want this?

Yea really, this will be helpful for getting rid of IED that can be detonated.

And this is why I read sci-fi.

This is almost EXACTLY what you're looking at here. http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20071126

Edit: and the "scientific" explanation. http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20071205

Bradeck:
And this is why our Army is the greatest in the world. China has troops, Britain has the Navy, Japan has giant robots. But America has LIGHTNING GUNS.

Sadly here in Britain we dson't have much of a Navy left after the raather deep cuts in our defence budget.

We do have nuclear submarines though. All over the place. Carrying lots of lovely missiles.

If only we could replace guns with hugs maybe we could stop the mindless killing. )= I only support mindful killing.

BabySinclair:

SkarKrow:
Now we just need air-to-space lightning cannons and we can build a space empire....

Only problem, however awesome it would be, is that electricity requires a substance to pass through and space is a vacuum. Not medium, no lightning. Still can use high-powered lasers to burn large ships up though.

Catcha: heartache

I know ): but still surely it's theoretically possible that if they entered the fringes of the planets atmosphere you'd be able to do it. Would be a pretty cool thing to have though.

teebeeohh:

SkarKrow:
Now we just need air-to-space lightning cannons and we can build a space empire....

i am game, i even have an old SS uniform lying around here somewhere.

OT: i am sure i have wielded several guns that work like that in games, didn't one of the heavy weapons in me2 shoot lightning following a laser?

Definately game, British Empire in space, it'd basically be if the Helghast were successful. (Not sure how they aren't really, having played all 3 Killzone games, they seem decidedly more competent than the ISA, not to mention better equipped.)

well i just want to see how many people here will yell 'AIMBOT!'

Tesla's grave just rose a few inches.

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