Army Testing Lightning Weapon
Weaponized lightning has long been a favorite of super villains and super heroes alike, and is occasionally deployed by mad doctors and demigods as well. Now the U.S. Army is taking a look at it.
According to a news release, scientists and engineers at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are developing a device that would “shoot lightning bolts down laser beams” to destroy targets.
The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) targets items (or people) that conduct electricity better than the air or ground around them. The team is using an ultra-short pulse laser to create an intense laser beam that can stay focused on a filament, with an output of 50 billion watts of optical power.
With a strong enough electromagnetic field, the beam can rip electrons from air molecules and create plasma, which can be directed along the path of the laser beam.
Engineering challenges were many, including synchronizing the laser with the high voltage, ensuring the light didn’t focus inside the laser amplifier system, and ruggedizing the device sufficiently.
Conceivably, the device could be use to trigger unexploded ordinance or landmines in the field, or electrify other types of targets, potentially disabling vehicles or triggering munitions explosions. Like most plasma weapon designs, however, the device would be impractical to deploy at this point because of the cost and the vast amounts of energy needed to operate.
Source: Picatinny Arsenal