Lightning and lightning rods naturally coincide with one another, providing the perfect balance between the powerful force of Mother Nature, and the attempts of humans to minimize its impact. Lightning rods act as electrical conductors, drawing in the charged particles that make up lightning and providing a safe release of their energy into the ground. In addition to protecting property against the potential damage of strikes, having a lightning rod can also help lessen the potential of any shocks from nearby strikes. Even though natural lightning strikes cannot always be prevented, installing lightning rods is a proactive step every property owner can take to ensure safety and security.
Recently, scientists in Brazil, using high-speed cameras, obtained amazing photographs that reveal the behavior of lightning and lightning rods. The innovative technology of the cameras they used facilitated the research. The camera used takes 40,000 frames per second.
Use of technology to analyze lightning and lightning rods.
The shots were obtained 25 milliseconds before the lightning struck the lightning rod located on a building. The analysis, documented with high-speed photographs, was published in Geophysical Research Letters.
The photographs show how a lightning bolt, negatively electrically charged, approaches the earth at 370 kilometers per second. In turn, the lightning rods, when the discharge was only 30 meters from the earth, produced an upward positive electric charge until it struck the lightning.
Lightning carries an electric charge, either positive or negative, of about 30 thousand amperes, enough to light 30 thousand 100-watt light bulbs.
How do lightning rods work?
When a thunderstorm occurs, a large amount of electrical charge builds up in the clouds. If the electrical charge in the clouds is large enough, it ionizes the surrounding air, creating an electric current that moves toward the earth. When the electric current impacts the earth, it can cause damage to structures in its path.
A lightning rod functions as an electrical conductor that is grounded. The conductive rod is placed on top of a structure, such as a building or tower, and is designed to attract electric current from lightning strikes. When lightning strikes the conductor rod, the electric current is diverted to the grounding wire, which is buried in the ground. The electric current is discharged safely into the ground, rather than passing through the structure causing damage.
Why are lightning arresters important?
Lightning arresters are important because they protect structures and the people inside them from the destructive effects of lightning. When lightning strikes a structure, it causes severe damage. Fires, destruction of masonry, explosions and irreparable failures of electrical and electronic systems can occur.
Lightning rods are also important because they prevent forest fires. When lightning strikes a tree or a bush, it causes a forest fire that spreads rapidly. Also, in addition to material damage, it endangers the lives of people and wildlife.
On average, only 20% of lightning strikes the earth’s soil. The rest of them occur between clouds at high altitude.