Timon Singh

Swiss Research Team Creates Rain By Firing Laser Beams Into the Sky

by , 08/31/11

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Last year we reported that researchers at Switzerland’s University of Geneva had come up with an interesting way of making it rain – by shooting lasers high up into the sky. At the time it seemed like science fiction, but now it is science fact after the team successfully finished testing the technology around Lake Geneva.

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The technique, called laser-assisted water condensation, sees laser beams create water droplets in the air allowing mankind to, for the first time, determine where and when rain falls. This could solve drought, famine and all sorts of climate change catastrophes. Except storms.

The Swiss team successfully demonstrated the technique in field tests after setting up a mobile laser laboratory near Lake Geneva. The team fired lasers for 133 hours, during which time the pulses created nitric acid particles in the air. These ‘stuck’ to water molecules, which in turn turned to droplets. The larger size droplets were therefore not able to re-evaporate and within seconds, these grew to drops a few thousandths of a millimeter in diameter.

Now it should be noted that these droplets were too small to fall as rain, but it has proved to scientists that the technology has merit.

“We have not yet generated raindrops – they are too small and too light to fall as rain. To get rain, we will need particles a hundred times the size, so they are heavy enough to fall,” said Jérôme Kasparian, a physicist at the University of Geneva, writing in the journal Nature Communications.

The method actually has the potential to stop storms. Instead of creating rain, the lasers could create so many tiny droplets in the air that none will grow large enough to fall. “Maybe one day this could be a way to attenuate the monsoon or reduce flooding in certain areas,” Kasparian said.

So what are the technology’s limits? Currently, the team’s Teramobile laser can only shoot beams of light several miles into the sky. While this puts it within reach of areas of the atmosphere where water normally condenses, modifications will need to be made so that rain is created over larger areas. But when that day comes, in theory, we could have crop fields in deserts, where arid land gives new life and guaranteed harvests.

Nice one, science!

+ Nature Communication

Via The Guardian

Image: Brokentaco

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4 Comments

  1. Calvin K September 5, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    @mercurydan
    maybe I am using the expression wrong or not specific enough. I meant it can both aid and harm human. Aid (some of) us mostly in the short term, harm mostly from the misused and possible long term effects.
    Most of the places, I believe, that requires man-made rain will not be beside bodies of water like ocean — the places I can think of are far inland or at the wrong side of the mountain etc. Few African countries are already experiencing the damage of artificial water control – the farms upstream are redirecting so much water the countries downstream are fucked. (Mostly along the Nile river)
    For the reverse use of making rain, i.e. eliminating them — Hurricane, monsoon, typhoon are also shared by many countries. If you eliminate them for one place, that could mean not enough water for the other.
    “Green” is traditionally about how to play nicely with nature and ecosystem. Not how to “control” them. Control was never part of the Green initiative. Not to my knowledge.
    And no, gun is not bad in itself. But gun is not “peace”. Just like this tech is not “green”. I hope my points make sense.

  2. mercurydan September 5, 2011 at 1:28 am

    How can u say Definitely Not Green when you say its a double edged sword. Its a tool like a Gun or a knife, Is a gun bad? or does it depend on the user.
    Yeah and when we can redirect the rain going into the open ocean, onto land instead, then why not.

  3. msyin September 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    This doesn’t strike me as a good one for science either. The implications of this being helpful to mankind seems to dance around the other side of the coin, which is mankind using this weather making device to manipulate and control otherwise natural systems with the effects being incredibly damaging. I would not put it past any government, group or agency to use this in a way that is not in the least beneficial and the ramifications of what this would do to the natural system of which we have shown a complete disregard, intelligence and respect for the ways things work is directly related to our problems we are having today. I think technology is great, but our arrogance is costing us enough as it is. We would be better served moving more into alignment and understanding of the planets natural systems than tampering any more with it as we have already done, almost to our demise.

  4. the bystander the bystander August 31, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    This will be a double edge sword. Human has been terraforming for ages, and a lot of our current problems are the fruits of our own short sightedness.
    I think most ppl who view this as “wow wonderful” forget where this water will come from. If you make it rain here, that means it will not rain somewhere else. We are in a closed system… resources does not come out of a magic box infinitely.
    This will need to be used with a good understanding of the eco-system. But seeing how we currently redirect rivers, create dams, and extract underground water… this tech could be disastrous in the long run.
    Definitely NOT green.

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