Army researchers used an "ultra-short-pulse laser of modest energy" that keeps the laser beam focused through its own intensity. The laser's electro-magnetic field can harvest electrons from air molecules to create the plasma pathway for electricity to follow.
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A U.S. Army lab is testing how lasers can create an energized plasma channel in the air — an invisible pathway for electricity to follow. The laser-guided lightning weapon could precisely hit targets such as enemy tanks or unexploded roadside bombs, because such targets represent better conductors for electricity than the ground.
"We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated (targets)," said George Fischer, lead scientist on the project at the U.S. Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
The weapon idea mimics the way that lightning leaps from thunderclouds to strike the ground — the electricity follows the path of least resistance, Fischer explained.
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