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The Case for Using Blunt-Tipped Lightning Rods as Strike Receptors

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  • 1 Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico
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Abstract

Conventional lightning rods used in the United States have sharp tips, a practice derived from Benjamin Franklin's discovery of a means to obtain protection from lightning. However, the virtue of sharp tips for strike reception has never been established. An examination of the relevant physics shows that very strong electric fields are required above the tips of rods in order that they function as strike receptors but that the gradients of the field strength over sharp-tipped rods are so great that, at distances of a few millimeters, the local fields are often too weak for the development of upward-going streamers. In field tests, rods with rounded tips have been found to be better strike receptors than were nearby sharp-tipped rods.

Corresponding author address: Charles B. Moore, Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM 87801. moore@nmt.edu

Abstract

Conventional lightning rods used in the United States have sharp tips, a practice derived from Benjamin Franklin's discovery of a means to obtain protection from lightning. However, the virtue of sharp tips for strike reception has never been established. An examination of the relevant physics shows that very strong electric fields are required above the tips of rods in order that they function as strike receptors but that the gradients of the field strength over sharp-tipped rods are so great that, at distances of a few millimeters, the local fields are often too weak for the development of upward-going streamers. In field tests, rods with rounded tips have been found to be better strike receptors than were nearby sharp-tipped rods.

Corresponding author address: Charles B. Moore, Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM 87801. moore@nmt.edu

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