With today’s newest commercial airliners now manufactured from carbon fibre, they are vulnerable to serious damage in a lightning strike, a worrying safety issue.
Metal aircraft are built to absorb such a strike without threatening their flight integrity but the carbon fibre variety are not – and statistics show that every airliner is hit by lightning once every year.
Cardiff University now hosts a Lightning Lab for Airbus, with scientists working on ways to make carbon fibre aircraft safe in such an event.
The blades of wind turbines are made form carbon fibre – which is of environmental concern in decommissioning – and with the towers themselves now to use the material in a cost-related move, the vulnerability of these structures to lightning strike is of concern. Most wind farms are, necessarily, located in places where they are the highest objects.
It may be that the research work going on at Cardiff will have an important application in the wind energy industry.