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A look at a few lightning protection systems and the standard codes that you need to follow
while setting up such systems for your building.

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LIGHTNING CODE: Make sure that the lightning protection system for building follorrs certain
standards.

If lou are seeking

a lightning protection system for vour building" make sure that thc system follou,s certain
standards. Few such reputed standards are Indian Code lS 2309. International Electro technical Commission
IEC 61201Series" British Standard BS 66-51. Australian Standards AS 1768 and American Standards (NFPA

780). etc.
Horvever. onc llould find thal irnplementing a lightning protection sl'stern according to the above slandard is
costlv due to the high price of copper ald other mctals. As a remedv to this drau'back of the conr,cntiornl
Franklin Rod Svstem. during the last fet,decades a nov mechanism has been proposed to attract lightning much
faster than a conventional air termination.

Todav rve refer to the air termination srstcms that applv this nerv mechanism as "Earlv Streamer Emitters
(ESE)". Therc is a hot debate going on at the international level regarding the acceptability of the ESE devices.
Therefore it is rvorth looking at the present situation of the ESE dcvices rvill-r an academic point of vierv.
The ESE concept was developed. based on a premise that some form of a sophisticated device" connected to lhe
air termination svstem could launch an ansrvering leader much earlier than the conventional copper Rod (knolvn
as Franklin Rod).

Therefore. the lighnring rod with the ESE device attracts tlte doutwards-lightning leader rnuch faster than an1other object rvould do so. The ltrst genemtion of such devices used ionisation properties of radioactivc materials
as the streamer stimulation mechanism. A decade ilgo these rvere cornpletelt' discarded and even barured in

many muntries not solely for its inability to prove the claimed efficiency but due to the health hazards

of

radiation as well.

Oscillatorl svstems
The next generation of ESE devices were made of electronic oscillatory systems that claimed to remove space
charges form around the tip of the rod so that the streamer initiation and propagation occur much faster than that
in lhe conventional rods. The working techniques or the circuity inside the sealed systems were not disclosed
by most of the manufacturers. The latest generdion of ESE devices employs a complex electrode system as the
streamer enhancement tochnique. These passive ESE devi@s contain no electronic circuits to improve the
streamer enhancement performance. Thus, passive ESE devices have a greater withstand capacity and higher
repeatability of handling lightring currents

Due to its enhanced streamerinitiation capability, ESE rnanufacturers prescribe a much smallernumber of rods
to a given building than that is formulated in many international ard national stardards.

Obiections
A large number of scientists raised their doubts on the efficienry of ESE dwices and objected in reducing the
number of rods as given inthe standards.
The Scandinavian Lightning Community, several leading lightning research goups in the U.S. and a munber of
scientists from the U.K., Germany, Ausnalia and several other develo@ countries joined this objection.
As they argue, except for some slight inprovement in launching the streamer, the efficiency of an ESE is not
significant enough to justi$ the reduction of the number of rods. Furthermore, due to the reduction of the
number of down conductors to one, in most of tle cases, the building is very much probable to have side flashes
at the upper parts in the event of a lightning strike.
In the U.S., a panel was appointed in the early 90s to investigate the possibility of including ESE into their
standards (Draft NFPA 781). In 1993, the panel declined to approve the proposed draft NFPA 781, which would
have set ESE standards and presumably given rhe ESE irdustry a tremendous boost. ESE makers sued" claiming
NFPA 781 hadjust as much scientific backing as NFPA 780 (the traditional Franklin rod). In a settlement the
NFPA agreed to have ESE technolory eevaluated by an outside panel. The panel confirmod that there was no
scientific basis for NFPA 781. However, it said thd there is no scientific basis for NFPA 780 either. It should be
noted that Benjamin Franklin introduced the concept of lightning rod based on his observations, not on a
scientific premise. Since that some 250 years ago, no significant changes were made and no foundational
physics has been offered for the Franklin rod. However, recently a court order was issued in the U.S. banning all
ESE products being advertising in the public.
ESE devices were included into &e French National Stardards (NFCI7-102) in &e mid 90s. Several South
European countries followed France and adopted ESE concept in their stadards as well. This inclusion greatly
boosted rhe manufacnrring of ESE air termination systems ard at presnt they have a major share in the

international market of lightning protection.

Lightning repellers
One of the new concepts dweloped in the last decade in lightrdng protection proposes a device that can repel or
neutralise a lightning leader so &at it has no harm to the protected site. This radical concept is higlrly
advantageous in the protection of buildings (especially high risk installations) if the claimed performance of the
device is true.

Unfortunately still only a very few scientists at the international lighrning community accept this concept while
the rest strongly oppose it at the fundamenal level. None of the national or international standards in the world
have recommended this technique so far. Thus, in tlre present context the theory behind lightning elimination
systems is simply an imagination to be proved ad justified both experimentally and theoretically.

DR. CHANDIMA GOMES


Universily of Colombo, Sri Lanka; HonoraryAdvisor, LightningAwateness Cell, Regtonal Energt Centre,

Kerala