Channeling an extended electrical breakdown of air by a laser beam is a long-standing challenge in applied laser science. Virtually all previously reported experiments on discharge channeling by femtosecond laser beams relied on the application of a single laser pulse and have been conducted with discharge gaps of less than one meter, in which case the direct ohmic heating of the laser-generated plasma by the applied DC electric field is the dominant channeling mechanism. We report a laboratory-scale demonstration of a channeling approach that makes use of concatenated plasma filaments produced by a sequence of multiple ultrashort laser pulses. Direct ohmic heating of the guiding channel is eliminated through the introduction of large temporal delays between the individual laser pulses in the pulse sequence. We propose an extension of this scheme to channeling kilometer-scale discharges, including natural lightning. Our proposed approach alleviates the fundamental range limitations inherent to the single-pulse schemes reported previously. It can channel discharges propagating in either direction and along curved paths.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)