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Laser-induced water condensation in air


Triggering rain on demand is an old dream of mankind, with a huge potential socio-economical benefit. To date, efforts have mainly focused on cloud-seeding using silver salt particles. We demonstrate that self-guided ionized filaments generated by ultrashort laser pulses are also able to induce water-cloud condensation in the free, sub-saturated atmosphere. Potential contributing mechanisms include photo-oxidative chemistry and electrostatic effects. As well as revealing the potential for influencing or triggering water precipitation, laser-induced water condensation provides a new tool for the remote sensing of nucleation processes in clouds.

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Figure 1: Laser-induced condensation in an atmospheric cloud chamber (T = −24 °C and RH = 230%).
Figure 2: Laser-induced condensation in a sub-saturated atmospheric cloud chamber (T = 60 °C, RH = 75–85%), observed through the scattered signal at 90°.
Figure 3: Laser-induced condensation experiment in the atmosphere.
Figure 4: Atmospheric diffusion chamber for laboratory experiments.


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The authors would like to acknowledge J. Kirkby of CERN for fruitful discussions, I. Sorge of Institut für Meteorologie, FU-Berlin, Germany, for providing weather data, and T. L. Kucsera (GEST) at NASA/Goddard for back-trajectories (available at the website). This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Project ANR-05-Blan-0187), the Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique (FNS, grant nos. 200021-116198 and 200021-125315), and the Swiss Secrétariat d'État à l'Éducation et à la Recherche in the framework of the COST P18 project ‘The Physics of Lightning Flash and its Effects’.

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All authors contributed extensively to the work presented in this paper. More specifically, P.R., J.K., K.S., L.W. and J.-P.W. conceived and designed the study. P.R., K.S., Z.H., S.H., N.L., W.N., Y.P., M.Q., R.S. and E.S. performed the experiments. P.R., J.K. and K.S. analysed the data, and J.K., L.W. and J.-P.W. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Jérôme Kasparian.

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Rohwetter, P., Kasparian, J., Stelmaszczyk, K. et al. Laser-induced water condensation in air. Nature Photon 4, 451–456 (2010).

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