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Nat Commun. 2011 Aug 30;2:456. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1462.

Field measurements suggest the mechanism of laser-assisted water condensation.

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Teramobile, GAP, Université de Genève, Switzerland.


Because of the potential impact on agriculture and other key human activities, efforts have been dedicated to the local control of precipitation. The most common approach consists of dispersing small particles of dry ice, silver iodide, or other salts in the atmosphere. Here we show, using field experiments conducted under various atmospheric conditions, that laser filaments can induce water condensation and fast droplet growth up to several μm in diameter in the atmosphere as soon as the relative humidity exceeds 70%. We propose that this effect relies mainly on photochemical formation of p.p.m.-range concentrations of hygroscopic HNO(3), allowing efficient binary HNO(3)-H(2)O condensation in the laser filaments. Thermodynamic, as well as kinetic, numerical modelling based on this scenario semiquantitatively reproduces the experimental results, suggesting that particle stabilization by HNO(3) has a substantial role in the laser-induced condensation.

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