We have demonstrated the ability to trigger and guide high-voltage discharges with ionized filaments generated by femtosecond terawatt laser pulses. The plasma filaments extended over the whole gap, providing a direct ohmic connection between the electrodes. Laser-guided straight discharges have been observed for gaps of as much as 3.8 m at a high voltage reduced to 68% of the natural breakdown voltage. The triggering efficiency was found to depend critically on the spatial connection of the laser filaments to the electrode as well as on the temporal coincidence of the laser with the peak of the high voltage.
© 2002 Optical Society of America
(010.1300) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Atmospheric propagation
(140.7090) Lasers and laser optics : Ultrafast lasers
(190.5940) Nonlinear optics : Self-action effects
(190.7110) Nonlinear optics : Ultrafast nonlinear optics
(350.5400) Other areas of optics : Plasmas
M. Rodriguez, R. Sauerbrey, H. Wille, L. Wöste, T. Fujii, Y.-B. André, A. Mysyrowicz, L. Klingbeil, K. Rethmeier, W. Kalkner, J. Kasparian, E. Salmon, J. Yu, and J.-P. Wolf, "Triggering and guiding megavolt discharges by use of laser-induced ionized filaments," Opt. Lett. 27, 772-774 (2002)