Scientists want to bore holes through clouds using lasers from satellites

space lasers clouds sat
Most information today travels through underground cables and from satellites beaming radio signals. In the coming decade, satellite information may instead be sent via lasers, which, among other advantages, are more secure and can carry more data. But lasers have a big weak spot those other technologies don’t have — lasers can’t pass through clouds.

Now, researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have proposed a new technique for clearing cloud layers to aid in communication via laser technology. That solution? Add more lasers.

Using ultra-hot and ultra-short laser beams, the researchers say they can temporarily bore a hole through clouds so that the information-carrying lasers can pass through uninterrupted.

With all the information sent around the planet, radio frequency bands are crowded and long wavelengths limit the amount of information that can be carried. It can’t keep up with our modern-day demands, so researchers have begun experimenting with other technologies to fulfill our needs.

Lasers may offer one solution. Their short wavelengths can transmit thousands of times more information than radio frequency, according to the researchers, and offer more security. However, “as soon as there are clouds or fog, the usual light is scattered in every direction and not transmitted anymore,” Jean-Pierre Wolf, a physicist at the university who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “There are nowadays no active solution to this problem, and what we propose may provide a solution.”

“We have demonstrated that a certain type of laser — ultra-short lasers, producing pulses as short as 1/10th of one millionth of one millionth of a second — create a shock wave in the air, that blows out the water droplets on its way,” Jérôme Kasparian, a physicist at the university who worked on the project, said. “By doing so, it can clear the way through a fog or a cloud, and open a clear channel for optical communication through the cloud.”

The satellite laser configuration proposed by Wolf and Kasparian includes one ultra-short laser that produces a shock wave to clear the clouds and a second to carry the information to Earth. Kasparian pointed out that the lasers they’ve used rely on chirped pulse amplification, a technology that earned Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland a Nobel Prize in physics this year.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, particularly in distributing the laser energy evenly over long distances, but Wolf said they have close contacts in aerospace interested in licensing the technology. They’re testing the lasers on synthetic clouds in the lab but hope to test on real clouds soon, with potential implementation by 2025.

A paper detailing the study was published this week in the journal Optica.

Home Theater

BassFit wireless in-ear headphones bring low-end fuel to your workout

V-Moda's latest headphone offering is a set of banded Bluetooth in-ears called the BassFit, a sweat-proof, ultra-secure pair of headphones that are designed to bring low-end power to your next workout.
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances to hit home entertainment in years.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.