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Lightning research advances

13 October 2011

Cardiff University has launched a new research facility, the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory today (13 October).

The facility is set to tackle the emerging trend to use composites within the airframe (mechanical structure) of an aircraft. Composites are light and strong; ideal for efficient and greener transport. Thorough testing of all parts and new designs is essential to keep the world’s fleet airborne.

The Cardiff School of Engineering facility is named after Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales, and Dr Jean Botti, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) Chief Technical Officer, both instrumental in establishing the laboratory.

The Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory, with around £1.6M joint funding by the Welsh Government and EADS Innovation Works, is the most advanced University based lightning test facility in the UK. It will be able to generate up to 200,000 Amps. To put this in context, an average lightning strike has 32,000 Amps and the maximum amount of electricity powering a house is about 100 Amps.

The facility will complement the expertise within the Cardiff School of Engineering’s High Voltage Energy Systems research group, and combined with the practical knowledge of EADS will provide a unique research and testing facility for businesses in Wales involved in composite materials and structures.

Mr Philip Leichauer, Lightning Laboratory Project Manager, said: "Our new laboratory will generate controlled lightning, which will be used with advanced test and measurement methods to further understanding of lightning effects on materials, and ensure future aircraft remain safe, as they are today."

Professor Manu Haddad, Cardiff School of Engineering, added: "This new facility will allow Cardiff University to work closely with manufacturers and users of composite materials and components to optimise the electrical properties of the material and structure designs, and, ultimately, the research aims to contribute to the development of more environmentally-friendly and safer aircraft".

The Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory will be used by manufacturers of composites, lightning conductors and aircraft manufacturers, including the Next Generation Composite Wing programme which will provide novel technical concepts to forthcoming aerospace programmes.

Dr Jean Botti, EADS Chief Technical Officer said: "EADS is very pleased, once again, to expand its research footprint in Wales and also partner with a leading academic institute like Cardiff University. The importance of the research that will be conducted at the new lab cannot be understated, given its importance to civil aviation. The expansion of our partnership with Cardiff University is another milestone in our commitment and strategy to work with the tremendous technical talent that exists across the UK."

Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales said: "I am delighted the Welsh Government has been able to support this unique facility, which is the only one of its kind in the UK to provide access to lightning simulation for both research and testing purposes.

"This is a flagship centre for aerospace research within Wales, and will provide a magnet for industries developing composite materials and encourage Research and Development investment into our country."

For further information contact:

Emma Darling

Senior Public Relations Manager
029 2087 4499