Lighter than traditional metal, CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic) is preferable in planes. However, it has drawbacks. For instance, its electrical conductivity is low and so is its resistance to heat. And, this makes aircraft at risk of lightning strikes.
Here, there is good news. It seems that researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory successfully fixed the issue. Mainly, they noticed that an additional layer of the polymer when added to CFRP, improves protection again lightning strikes.
More About the Study:
As per Vipin Kumar, the team printed an adhesive material, which is easy to apply and unique. And, the structure of the polymer, which is chain-like, turns the product into a conductor of electricity. Besides, credit the thermal treatment, it makes the structure strong.
While studying the impact, researchers examined both protected and unprotected CFRP. And, the one protected showed a low level of damage and allowed for better heat dissipation. The reason is that the layer of polymer laid the perfect framework for current from lightning to flow effectively.
What Happens When Lightning Strikes an Airplane?
In most cases, nothing serious happens. Mostly, one hears a sound and sees a flash. Most commercial aircrafts witness lightning strikes at least once a year. It is noteworthy that sometimes aircrafts set off lightning while passing through clouds that are charged. Besides, it is important to mark that smaller planes, owing to size, are struck less than the bigger ones. But, no one is keeping a proper record so statistics here might be slightly amiss.
Crashes caused by lightning strikes are not common. In fact, in the United States, saw the last in 1967. There, a strike led to a fuel tank explosion, which was catastrophic. But since, efforts in the right direction led to better protection. And, today, there are tests run to ensure an aircraft is ready to handle such strikes.