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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Optical beaming of electrical discharges.

  • Author(s): Shvedov, V
  • Pivnev, E
  • Davoyan, AR
  • Krolikowski, W
  • Miroshnichenko, AE
  • et al.

Igniting and guiding electrical discharges to desired targets in the ambient atmosphere have been a subject of intense research efforts for decades. Ability to control discharge and its propagation can pave the way to a broad range of applications from nanofabrication and plasma medicine to monitoring of atmospheric pollution and, ultimately, taming lightning strikes. Numerous experiments utilizing powerful pulsed lasers with peak-intensity above air photoionization and photo-dissociation have demonstrated excitation and confinement of plasma tracks in the wakes of laser field. Here, we propose and demonstrate an efficient approach for triggering, trapping and guiding electrical discharges in air. It is based on the use of a low-power continuous-wave vortex beam that traps and transports light-absorbing particles in mid-air. We demonstrate a 30% decrease in discharge threshold mediated by optically trapped graphene microparticles with the use of a laser beam of a few hundred milliwatts of power. Our demonstration may pave the way to guiding electrical discharges along arbitrary paths.

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