Lighning Lab

Cardiff University will receive £2.6m from UK Research Councils to carry out PROTEST research project, which looks into developing systems for protecting modern aircraft from lightning strikes.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus, HEXCEL, manufacturer of carbon composites, and National Composite Centre are also partners in the project.

Research will take place in the newly revamped Morgan-Botti lightning laboratory, which will focus on understanding the mechanisms used in aircraft joints, built from carbon composite materials.

The laboratory was set-up with an investment of £1.6m in 2007, with cooperation from Airbus and the Welsh Government.

Previously, aluminium was the main metal used in aircraft manufacturing as it is a good conductor of electricity can better protect aircraft from lightning strike; however, modern aircraft are made from stronger and lighter carbon composite materials that may not protect the craft from lightning as they are poorer conductors of electricity.

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

The PROTEST research project will look for mechanism to reduce the risk of lightning against these carbon composites, and develop safer and reliable materials.

UK 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."

Cardiff University vice-chancellor Colin Riordan 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."

Image: 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. Photo courtesy of Cardiff University.