New £2.6 million project for Lightning Laboratory

24 September 2015

Aeroplane

Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, on a visit to Cardiff University yesterday, announced a £2.6 million project led by Airbus Group, and involving the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory at Cardiff University.

The new PROTEST project is funded by Innovate UK, through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). The project is led by Airbus Group Innovations with partners Cardiff University School of Engineering, the AIRBUS Group in Filton, HEXCEL, a manufacturer of carbon composites, based near Cambridge, and the National Composite Centre. The project will investigate ways of protecting aircraft from lightning strikes.

Professor Manu Haddad, the Director of the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory at Cardiff University, explained in an interview by BBC Radio Wales yesterday morning: “One of our main objectives is to contribute towards the safety and protection of aircraft when subjected to lightning strikes. On average, each civilian aircraft is hit by lightning once a year. The main aim of the project is to understand the phenomena and physics of mechanisms involved in aircraft joints when using carbon composite materials. Previously, aeroplanes were made of metals, mainly aluminium, which are very good conductors of electricity, hence better electrical performance and are protected under lightning strikes. The new carbon composite materials have better mechanical strength and lower weight which is environmentally very attractive. However, they are poor conductors of electricity compared to metals. Therefore, it is important to improve the conduction and protection against lightning of these materials which is a particular focus of our research here at Cardiff University.”

The Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory was established in collaboration with AIRBUS group, and with a £2 million grant from the Welsh Government.  Currently, it is the only university-based lightning laboratory worldwide which is dedicated to aerospace research and testing.

A number of small projects related to lightning protection of aircraft and the characterisation of new carbon composite materials and components destined for aerospace applications have already been carried out by the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory.  The research group has formed a network (EMC3) of industrial and academic institutions that are active in electromechanical characterisation of carbon composites with 24 aerospace companies and 7 universities already joining the network.