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Could Lasers Divert Lightning From Buildings?

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by Michael Keller

The standard advice authorities offer when lightning starts crackling across the sky is for people to take shelter inside buildings. Substantial structures offer protection through lightning rods affixed to the roof, electrical wiring and plumbing that can direct the electricity away from occupants and into the ground.

But what is there to protect the buildings themselves from more than 5 billion Joules of energy in a typical lightning strike, which is enough juice to toast 100,000 bread slices? The problem is no small one—the Empire State Building (above) in New York City gets hit by lightning an average of 25 times a year. And Underwriters Laboratories reports that lightning accounts for more than $1 billion in building damage in the U.S. every year. 

Many buildings install lightning protection systems to direct lightning’s energy into the ground, which the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety says are highly effective at preventing fires and destructive electrical surges after a strike.

Now researchers say there might be a next-generation protective system that prevents lightning from hitting a building at all. Their secret weapon? High-intensity lasers.

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Glass Gets Stronger By Cracking It

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by Txchnologist staff

Engraving microscopic cracks in glass sheets can make it 200 times tougher than normal, McGill University mechanical engineers say. The insight could lead to improvements in regular glass objects like wine glasses or jars that don’t shatter when dropped, instead only deforming on impact.

Researchers took a clue from nature to uncover the fact that etching wavy lines in test glass slides prevented stress-induced cracks from spreading into the material’s failure. Their muse was the seemingly simple mother-of-pearl coating inside the shells of some mollusks.

This material is called nacre, and it is mostly composed of chalk, a brittle substance that normally disintegrates under the slightest pressure. But the organism constructs a biomaterial that is 3,000 times tougher than the weak chalk from which it is composed, writes François Barthelat, who runs McGill’s biomimetic materials lab and led the research. The secret is in how the creature builds nacre out of tiny tablets of chalk that are laid down in offset rows. This architecture, which is also seen in teeth and bones, counters a propagating crack by deflecting it and diffusing energy to surrounding tiles.

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tech science fusion energy laser

Inching Closer To Fusion
This is a room within the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Ignition Facility, where researchers are working to ignite a self-sustained fusion reaction. 
The room contains the preamplifiers for the facility’s 192 lasers that fire billionth-of-a-second pulses onto a tiny target. The lasers deliver 1.8 megajoules of energy and 500 terawatts of power—1,000 times more than the United States uses at any one moment. Their target is a tiny capsule that is heated and pressurized to conditions similar to those found in the sun’s core.[[MORE]]
The product of achieving their objective will be a reaction that produces more energy than that which is put into starting it. They say that experiments in September got them much closer to their goal. If their work is successful, it could usher in a revolution in abundant, clean energy.

Inching Closer To Fusion

This is a room within the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Ignition Facility, where researchers are working to ignite a self-sustained fusion reaction. 

The room contains the preamplifiers for the facility’s 192 lasers that fire billionth-of-a-second pulses onto a tiny target. The lasers deliver 1.8 megajoules of energy and 500 terawatts of power—1,000 times more than the United States uses at any one moment. Their target is a tiny capsule that is heated and pressurized to conditions similar to those found in the sun’s core.

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by Txchnologist Staff
Laser sintering is 3-D printing on steroids. The process is another form of additive manufacturing that shoots laser beams at metal powders to fuse particles together. As the powder bed is lowered, a new layer of particles is put on and then fused onto the emerging shape below it, slowly building up metal components and prototypes. The process, being employed by GE to make jet engine parts, produces little waste and allows for bespoke component designs on demand. See the video here.

by Txchnologist Staff

Laser sintering is 3-D printing on steroids. The process is another form of additive manufacturing that shoots laser beams at metal powders to fuse particles together. As the powder bed is lowered, a new layer of particles is put on and then fused onto the emerging shape below it, slowly building up metal components and prototypes. The process, being employed by GE to make jet engine parts, produces little waste and allows for bespoke component designs on demand. See the video here.

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