Jo Johnson announces new funding for lightning lab

23 September 2015

Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister with Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor and Professor Manu Haddad, Director of the University’s Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory
Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister with Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor and Professor Manu Haddad, Director of the University’s Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory

£2.6 million committed to innovative engineering project during Minister’s visit to Cardiff

The Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, has today committed £2.6 million to a Cardiff University-led project to develop new ways of protecting modern aircraft from lightning strikes.

The PROTEST research project, which is also being led by Airbus, will take place at the newly redesigned Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory and will aim to understand the phenomena and physics of mechanisms involved in aircraft joints when built from carbon composite materials.

Whereas previous aircraft were made mainly of aluminium, which is a very good conductor of electricity and therefore a better protector against lightning, modern aircraft are made from stronger and lighter carbon composite materials, which are poorer conductors of electricity in comparison.

Researchers at the lightning lab will study the mechanisms involved when lightning strikes these carbon composite materials and devise ways of making the materials safer and more reliable.

The information will also be used to make overall aircraft design more efficient and economical and keep the UK at the cutting edge of innovation in aerospace.

Currently, the Morgan-Botti Lightning Laboratory is the only university-based lightning laboratory worldwide which is dedicated to aerospace research and testing.

The PROTEST project has been funded by Innovate UK, through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). The other industrial partners involved in the project are AIRBUS Group in Filton, HEXCEL,  a manufacturer of carbon composites based near Cambridge, and the National Composite Centre (NCC catapult).

The new funding was announced during Mr Johnson’s visit to Cardiff University, where he was also shown the world-leading Cardiff Catalysis Institute and the Cardiff University Brain Imaging Centre (CUBRIC).

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “As a One Nation Government we are backing science and innovation across the UK. We want to be the best place in Europe to innovate which is why we are investing in Cardiff University’s unique project to create new ideas for developing Wales' world-class aerospace sector.

“This is the kind of expertise we are supporting to safeguard the future success of the nation and its economy.”

Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor, said:  “Universities exist to create and share knowledge and the impact of that on UK society is huge. The research conducted in our Lightning Laboratory is just one example, among many, demonstrating how fundamental research supported by the research councils is developed into translational research of real value to the UK through partnership with industry, Government and Innovate UK. We are really proud of our long record of industrial collaboration across a wide range of sectors.”