Lightning laboratory

Inside the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory
Inside the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory

We have some of the best facilities worldwide for lightning research and testing, supported by a highly experienced staff team.

Capacitors at the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory
Huge banks of capacitors store the charge, which is then released to simulate a lightning strike

The Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory (MBLL) provides a research and test capability for understanding and enhancing the science of lightning protection. It is Europe's only university-based lightning laboratory and one of only a handful worldwide.

The £2.4m facility is capable of generating controlled lightning with currents up to 200,000 amps, more than five times that of an average lightning strike.

Technical features

The laboratory is capable of delivering the 'B','C' and 'D' component waveforms for both carbon fibre and aluminium loads, as defined in EUROCAE ED-84/SAE ARP 5412. The 'A' component is currently under construction, and will be fully operational by the end of 2014. The specified capability of each generator component is:

  • 'A' component (first return stroke): Peak current of 200kA, with an action integral no less than 2x106 A2s and delivered within 500µs
  • 'B' component (intermediate current): 10 Coulomb charge delivered at an average current of 2kA
  • 'C' component (continuing current): 200 Coulomb total charge delivered at a constant DC current of 200-800A
  • 'D' component: (subsequent return stroke): Peak current of 100kA, with an action integral no less than 0.25x106 A2s and delivered within 500µs

We also have diagnostic and post-strike analysis capabilities, including:

  • a 550 x 550 mm coaxial rig for flat panel testing
  • Rogowski coils, magnetic current transducers and tubular shunts for current monitoring
  • High-voltage dividers and differential probes for voltage measurement
  • Digital stills photography (Nikon D700 DSLR with a variety of lenses, filters and polarisers)
  • High speed monochrome camera (Photron FastCam SA5)
  • Cooled thermal imaging camera (FLIR SC 7600M)
  • Spectrograph system (Andor Shamrock 303i with InGaAs near infrared and UV cameras)
  • Photodiode receiver array for fibre-optic light intensity measurement in the UV-Vis-NIR range
  • Precision cutting, polishing and mounting for materialographic imaging
  • High resolution upright and inverted software-driven microscopes (Zeiss Axio Imager / Axio Observer)
  • Benchtop scanning electron microscope with EDX system (Hitachi TM3030)

How it helps

The Lightning Laboratory team coordinate a research and collaboration network on Electromagnetic Characterisation of Carbon Composites (EMC3), with active membership from a wide array of industrial partners and academic institutions. This network allows us to undertake targeted industry-focussed R&D, while also working to improve and develop new diagnostics techniques with relevance to international lightning test standards.

We have a number of active projects with Airbus Group Innovations, notably an ATI-funded project investigating and characterising sparking phenomena in CFRP components and joints. Our research is focus is in the investigation of protection systems for aerospace structures and fuel systems, and in developing transducers and test methodologies for the evaluation of such systems.