Benjamin Franklin flew his kite during a storm in an attempt to study the properties of lightning, and since this time lightning has been a major topic of study. Franklin was seeking information on a way to potentially control lightning by conducting a strike to a specific place, and nearly all of the research and development since has followed the same idea. Lightning is devastating, and has the ability to create huge amounts of damage in a completely unpredictable way. There is nearly no way to prepare a specific area for a strike before one happens because we have no method of predicting where the strike will land. We can assume that there will be lightning strikes, and we can make predictions based on research about lightning being attracted to specific properties like metals, height and isolation. However we cannot predict exactly when the lightning strike will happen, if ever. All we can do is put in place the best form of protection against the lightning strike, and hope that it never has to be tested. Lightning is a force powerful enough to completely destroy nearly anything, and kill instantly. We have no method of preventing it from happening, so all we can do is guard against it as best we can.
Methods of protecting against lightning have evolved technologically, but essentially they all use the same ideas that have been around since the first lighting protection solution was introduced. We have methods of drawing the strikes to objects that will not impact more valuable objects that surround it, and we have methods of preventing the surge of electricity that follows a strike from moving past a certain point. Both of these measures are reactive, meaning that since we do not know how to prevent it, we instead provide measures against the damage that the strike will cause when it happens. Lightning itself is the occurrence of a natural electrical discharge (of very short duration and high voltage) between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud. With no method of stopping the formation of clouds overhead, we have no way of totally preventing the strike of lightning. What we can do to minimize the damage that is caused by the actual strike is to understand it, knowing that lightning is going to always take the easiest path to the ground. This means that it will strike the tallest structure within a range that is made of a conductive material like metal. The methods of protection against the strike are called “lightning rods’ and “overhead shields,” and their job is to basically draw the strike to themselves. A lighting rod is a metal staff that is connected directly to earth and placed in a configuration that will make it the tallest structure. Overhead shields are metal structures that are positioned over more valuable equipment and not directly connected to it, instead being connected to ground. By attracting the strike to a place where it can be controlled we protect the more valuable items within a specific range. These methods are far from foolproof, but do provide a certain amount of protection. They are also the simplest of lightning protection methods.
More technologically advanced lightning protectors come in the form of surge protective devices or SPDs. These devices have taken on various forms over the years, but operate to divert a surge away from equipment that can be affected. The idea is to protect against the known electrical surge that follows a lightning strike as the energy produced attempts to travel to ground. Because this electrical current will attempt to follow the path of least resistance, we know that it will couple into most forms of cable wire, including power lines and data transfer wires. Because these lines are connected to the valuable equipment used in many processes, methods have been developed to create a “gap” in the line so that the electrical current cannot continue on its path. While this is a simplistic explanation of devices which have become quite technologically advanced, the premise of creating a gap remains. These SPDs have numerous forms to accomplish this goal, from the most rudimentary circuit breaker that simply snaps open when a surge over a certain amount is detected, to the SPDs that are manufactured by companies like Raycap. Raycap surge protective devices are used to protect billions of dollars of high tech industrial equipment globally, as well as being an integral part n keeping critical systems online.
Two of the most susceptible industries for lighting damage are telecommunications and energy production. This is due to the placement of electrical and electronics equipment that is exposed to weather elements in both cases. Telecommunications places several critical components within their cell towers at the top and bottom, connecting the two with cables for communication and power. Alternative energy places control equipment in the field connected to cables attached to the solar panels and wind turbines. Both of these scenarios are unavoidable, and needed for functionality of the systems, yet they also pose a serious risk of lightning-related damage as a result. If damage could be isolated to only the strike point there would be significantly lower repair and replacement costs, but the surge the follows the strike actually does the majority of the expensive damage. Through coupling into the cables connected to equipment at the strike point, the surge can travel, damaging equipment some distance away and compounding the price of the damage significantly. For this reason, Raycap’s Strikesorb line of SPDs is trusted by companies in these industries to provide an instantaneous break in the flow of the electrical surge, before it can be allowed to come into contact with downstream equipment. Strikesorb devices immediately recognize the increased electrical flow of a surge and then activate and shunt the surge to ground, to prevent only minimal voltage past their point. The electricity is diverted to ground in a safe way that prevents further damage past that point, and when the danger of the strike is over, the Strikesorb goes back to an inactive state and will continue to protect equipment. When Strikesorb devices are installed in redundant patterns, an effective protection against lightning-related surge activity is produced.
Raycap devices are the most technologically advanced SPDs available, and feature another key element that makes them superior. While competing devices will be destroyed or need to be replaced after they perform their duty, Raycap devices remain active and in a protection state. This not only provides ongoing protection against subsequent strikes to the same vulnerable structures, but it speeds up the process whereby a system can be restored to functionality and continue to remain protected. In most industries, uptimes are critical to profitability, and Raycap’s solutions improve the uptimes of the systems that they protect. The lighting protection devices themselves have evolved over the years, but the concept they represent remains the same. Our job is to manufacture components that will protect your equipment against the inevitable. Hoping that a strike never happens is not a plan, taking action to protect your equipment is.