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lightning-arrester

lightning-arrester

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Published by: coolariesatul on Feb 10, 2011
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11/05/2012

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Lightning Arrester 
A
lightning rod
(or 
lightning protector 
) is ametalstrip or rod, usually of copper or similar  conductivematerial, used as part of lightning safetyto protect tall or isolated structures (such as the roof of a building or the mast of a vessel) fromlightningdamage. Its formal name is
lightningfinial
or 
air terminal
. Sometimes, the system is informally referred to as a
lightning conductor 
,
lightning arrester 
, or 
lightning discharger 
; however, these terms actually refer to lightningprotection systems in general or specific components within them.
Construction and uses
A lightning rod is connected via a low-resistancewire or cable to the earth or water below, wherethe charge may be safely dissipated. Lightning rods sometimes possess ashort circuitto thegroundthat is interrupted by a thin non-conductor over which lightning jumps. Ideally, the underground part of the assembly should reside in a muddy area, or an area that tends tobecome so during storms. If the underground cable will resistcorrosionwell, it may be covered insaltto improve its electrical connection with the ground.Intelegraphyandtelephonya lightning rod is placed where wires enter a structure, preventing damage to electronic instruments within and ensuring the safety of individuals near them.Similarly,high-tension power linescarry a lighter conductor wire over the main power conductors.This conductor is grounded at various points along the link. Electrical substations usually have aweb of the lighter conductor wires covering the whole plant.Considerable material is used in the construction of lightning arresters, so it is prudent to work outwhere a new arrester will have the greatest effect. Historical understanding of lightning assumedthat each rod protected aconeof 45 degrees. This has been found to be unsatisfactory for protecting taller structures, as it is possible for lightning to strike the side of a building.A better technique to determine the effect of a new arrester is called the rolling sphere techniqueand was developed by Dr Tibor Horváth. To understand this requires knowledge of how lightning'moves'. As thestep leader of a lightning bolt jumps toward the ground, it steps toward thegroundedobjects nearest its path. The maximum distance that each step may travel is called the
critical distance
and is proportional to the electrical current. Objects are likely to be struck if theyare nearer to the leader than this critical distance. It is standard practice to approximate thesphere's radius as 60 m near the ground.Electricity travels along the path of least resistance, so an object outside the critical distance isunlikely to be struck by the leader if there is a grounded object within the critical distance. Notingthis, locations that are safe from lightning can be determined by imagining a leader's potentialpaths as aspherethat travels from the cloud to the ground.For lightning protection it suffices to consider all possible spheres as they touch potential strikepoints. To determine which strike points consider a sphere rolling over the terrain. At each pointwe are simulating a potential leader position and where the sphere touches the ground thelightning is most likely to strike. Points which the sphere cannot roll across and touch are safestfrom lightning. Lightning rods should be placed where they will prevent the sphere from touchinga structure.It is commonly believed, erroneously, that a rod ending in a sharp point at the peak is the bestmeans to conduct thecurrentof a lightning strike to the ground. According to field research, a rodwith a rounded or spherical end is better. "Lightning Rod Improvement Studies" by Moore et alsay:
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Calculations of the relative strengths of the electric fields above similarly exposed sharpand blunt rods show that although the fields, prior to any emissions, are much stronger at the tip of a sharp rod, they decrease more rapidly with distance. As a result, at a few centimeters above the tip of a 20-mm-diameter blunt rod, thestrength of the field isgreater than that over an otherwise similar, sharper rod at the same height. Since thefield strength at the tip of a sharpened rod tends to be limited by the easy formation of ions in the surrounding air, the field strengths over blunt rods can be much stronger thanthose at distances greater than 1 cm over sharper ones
.The results of this study suggest that moderately blunt metal rods (with tip height–to–tipradius of curvature ratios of about 680:1) are better lightning strike receptors than aresharper rods or very blunt ones.
Lightning prevention
Lightning rod dissipaters (known as Early Streamer Emission, Dissipation Array Systems, andCharge Transfer Systems) claim to make astructure
less
attractive to lightning. These generallyencompass systems and equipment for the preventative protection of objects located on thesurface of the earth from theeffects of atmospherics. Scientists claim that these devices arenothing more than expensive lightning rods and that they, unlike traditional methods, are notbased on "scientifically proven and indisputable technical arguments" or that the underlyingtheory is "scientific nonsense".This controversy dates back to the 1700's, when Franklin himself stated that his lightning rodsprotected buildings by dissipating electric charge. He later retracted the statement with adisclaimer stating that the exact mode of operation of the device was something of a mystery atthat point.Thus began a 250-year dispute between the dissipation theory and the diversion theory of lightning protection.The dissipation theory states that a lightning strike to a structure can be prevented by reducingthe electrical potential between the structure and the thundercloud by transferring electric chargefrom the nearby earth to the sky. This is done by erecting some sort of tower equipped with oneor more sharply-pointed rods upon the structure. While it is true that sharply-pointed objects willindeed transfer charge to the surrounding atmosphere, and it is also true that a considerableelectric current through the tower can be measured when thunderclouds are overhead, there isno proof that such an arrangement is at all effective. All DuPont Explosives manufacturing siteswere surrounding by pine trees. During the 1950's, DuPont was making nitroglycerin in somebuildings and moving it in 'Angel Buggies' to the packing building. Employees at those sites werevery sensitive to potential lightning strikes.
[
]
It should be noted, however, that there is also no proof that the dissipation theory is incorrect, andit is worth considering that these devices have been around for a long time. For example, thestatue of Freedom atop the United States Capitol building in Washington is equipped with multiple'lightning points' which are tipped with platinum, and that these were replaced as originallyconstructed when the statue was restored in the 1990's. The original aluminum cap of theWashington Monument was also equipped with multiple lightning points, and the rays that radiatefrom the crown of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor constitute a lightning-dissipationdevice as well.The diversion theory states that the lightning rod protects a building purely because it isgrounded, and thus a lightning stroke that happens to attach to the rod will be diverted around thestructure and down to earth through a ground cable. There is some uncertainty as to why a
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lightning strike might preferentially attach to a lightning rod; the leading assumption is that the air near the rod becomes ionized and thus conductive due to the intense electric field.A close reading of the scant scientific literature on the subject will reveal much of the problem,which is that thus far it has proven impossible to conduct a controlled experiment with naturallightning. A test structure that is equipped with lightning instrumentation may languish for yearswithout a strike, and then be subjected to a strike that destroys the instrumentation.Moreover, a lightning strike to a metallic structure frequently leaves no evidence exceptingperhaps a small pit in the metal. This means that a strike on an un-instrumented structure mustbe visually confirmed, and the random behavior of lightning renders such observations difficult.Thus if we strip away the two centuries of legal actions, political activity and general outrageexhibited by both sides, we find that the current state of the dissipation/diversion controversy is adraw; that neither theory has or can be proven, and that essentially all data pertaining to thebehavior of lightning on structures must be considered anecdotal.The research situation is improving somewhat, however. While controlled experiments may be far in the future, very good data is being obtained through techniques which use a network of radioreceivers that watch for the characteristic electrical 'signature' of lightning strikes using fixeddirectional antennas. Through accurate timing and triangulation techniques, lightning strikes canbe located with great precision, and so strikes on specific objects can often be confirmed withconfidence.The most common individual
dissipator rods
(or 
dissipator elements
) appear as slightly-bluntedmetal spikes sticking out in all directions from a metal conductor. These elements are mounted onshort metal arms at the very top of aradio antennaor tower , the area by far most likely to be struck. According to various manufacture claims, there is supposedly a reduction in the potentialdifference (voltage) between the structure and the stormcloud,miles above, allegedly reducing, but not eliminating, the risk of lightning strikes.There have been attempts to introduce lightning protection systems into standards. TheNFPA'sindependent third party panel found that "the [Early Streamer Emission] lightning protectiontechnology appears to be technically sound" and that there was an "adequate theoretical basis for the [Early Streamer Emission] air terminal concept and design from a physical viewpoint". (Bryan,1999) The same panel also concluded that "the recommended [NFPA 780 standard] lightningprotection system has never been scientifically or technically validated and the Franklin rod air terminals have not been validated in field tests under thunderstorm conditions." In response, theAmerican Geophysical Union concluded that "[t]he Bryan Panel reviewed essentially none of thestudies and literature on the effectiveness and scientific basis of traditional lightning protectionsystems and was erroneous in its conclusion that there was no basis for the Standard." AGU didnot attempt to assess the effectiveness of any proposed modifications to traditional systems in itsreport.No major standards body, such as the NFPA,UL,and theNLSI,has currently endorsed a device that can prevent or reduce lightning strikes. The NFPA Standards Council, following a request for a project to address Dissipation Array Systems and Charge Transfer Systems, denied the requestto begin forming standards on such technology (though the Council did not foreclose on futurestandards development after reliable sources demonstrating the validity of the basic technologyand science were submitted). Members of the Scientific Committee of theInternational Conference on Lightning Protectionhas issued a joint statement stating their opposition todissipater technology.
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