Across industries, the power of lightning strikes to injure personnel, destroy assets, and disrupt processes through fire, explosion, or electrical damage is clear. Even if the facility is not directly struck by lightning, secondary effects, such as bound charge and electromagnetic pulses, can fry sensitive circuitry in the vicinity. Failures may be catastrophic or a momentary or long-term lock up, requiring replacement, repair, reprogramming, or rebooting. For U.S. corporations, preventing lightning strike damage would not only safeguard critical processes and save millions of dollars of equipment and facility damage each year, but also protect the health and productivity of personnel.
Given the random and destructive nature of lightning strikes, how can businesses protect their personnel, facilities, equipment, and processes? The answer lies not in channeling lightning, but in preventing the charge from accumulating in the first place.
A lightning strike hazard for a given facility depends on a number of factors, including the facility’s location, size, and shape. The characteristics of a structure – its height, shape, size, and orientation – influence the hazard. Taller structures tend to collect strikes from storm clouds in adjacent areas and trigger additional strikes as well. The larger the structure size, the greater the hazard of lightning exposure.
One technology, the Dissipation Array System (DAS) being offered by companies such as Lightning Eliminators and Consultants Inc. (LEC) of Boulder, CO, has proven to be the preventive solution for lightning protection – cutting storm-induced voltages by up to 7,000 percent in protected zones, thus reducing lightning risk. DAS, a proprietary application of Charge Transfer Technology, originated as a lightning prevention system that the former chief engineer for NASA’s Apollo moon landing mission and space shuttle design team developed to protect high-risk mission facilities.
DAS is based on a natural phenomenon known to scientists for centuries as the “point discharge” principle, where a sharp point in a strong electrostatic field will leak off electrons by ionizing adjacent air molecules, providing the point’s potential is raised 10,000 volts above that of its surroundings. It employs the point discharge principle by providing thousands of points with specific point separation that simultaneously produce ions over a large area, thus preventing the formation of a streamer, the precursor of a lightning strike. DAS prevents strikes by continually lowering the voltage differential between the ground and the charged cloud to well below lightning potential, even in the midst of a worst-case storm. Because it prevents rather than redirects lightning, DAS is possibly the best long-term solution to lightning strike problems.
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, CA. For more information about DAS technology, contact LEC Inc. (303) 447-2828 or visit (www.lightningeliminators.com).