> Protection against effects of lightning > Different types of protection


Lightning rod
Meshed cage lightning conductor
Catenary wire lightning conductor
Protection using «natural» components
Early streamer emission lightning conductor

Lightning rod :

Benjamin Franklin invented the Lightning Rod in 1753. This lightning conductor is made up of a 2 to 8 m high tapered metal rod that dominates the structure to be protected and which is connected to a conductor and an earthing system.

As the protection radius of this type of lightning conductor is limited to around 30 metres  environ ( Protection level IV, height = 60 metres), it is normally only used to protect small structures or zones such as pylons, chimneys, tanks, water towers, aerial masts, etc...


Typical example : Protection of a pylon using a lightning rod

Meshed cage lightning conductor :

This lightning conductor, derived from the Faraday cage, consists of a mesh that covers the roof and walls of the structure to be protected.

Air terminals are positioned around the edge of the roof and on high points. A network of conductors follows the external perimeter of the roof. This network is completed with transverse elements. The mesh size is between 5 and 20 metres depending upon the effectiveness required..

The top of the  down conductors fitted to the walls are connected to the roof mesh, and the bottom to dedidated earthing systems. The distance between two down conductors is between 10 and 25 metres depending upon level of protection  required.

The majority of lightning current is conducted and dissipated by the conductors and earthing systems closest to the point of impact of the lightning strike.

Typical example :
Protection of a building using a mesh cage lightning conductor

Catenary wire lightning conductor :

This lightning conductor, using a similar principle to that of the mesh cage, consists of a mesh of conductors, but at a distance from the structure to be protected. The aim is to avoid the lightning current coming into contact with the structure.

Catenary wire conductors placed above the structure to be protected are connected to down conductors and dedicated earthing systems. The size of the mesh and the distance between down conductors are subjected to the same rules as for the mesh cage lightning conductor.

This protection requires that additional mechanical studies (resistance of materials: calculation of sag, resistance to weather conditions, etc.) be carried out and insulation distances defined.

The catenary wire lightning conductor is particularly used to protect open areas when there is no architectural support.

Typical example :
Protection of an external barrel storage area by a catenary wire lightning conductor

Protection using «natural» components

Components that have a lightning protection function but that were not installed for this purpose.
Comment: these are conducting parts of a structure or building that are able to participate in the external protection through their capacity to capture a lightning strike or to conduct lightning current. They can be used to replace all or part of a down conductor or in addition to an external installation.
These components may be made up of:
- The frame of metal constructions;
- Metal coatings of walls or metal cladding
- Sheet metal covering the volume to be protected, provided there is no risk of them being perforated by an impact
- Metal components of a roof structure (interconnected steel frames, etc.), even if covered with non-metallic materials, provided that these may be excluded from the volume to be protected
- Metal rods in reinforced concrete, provided that there is electrical interconnection between them, and particularly with the capture means and earthing system
- Metal parts such as gutters, decoration, guardrails, etc, provided that their cross-section is not less than that specified for normal components
- Metal pipes and tanks, provided they are at least 2.5 mm thick and if perforated, do not cause a dangerous or unacceptable situation

These elements must comply with thickness, cross-section and continuity constraints, thus making their use a delicate affair.

Early streamer emission lightning conductor

The principle of an early streamer emission lightning conductor is to artificially generate, with the aid of an ionization mechanism, an early upward leader occurring before the other «natural» upward leaders, in order to establish a privileged impact point of the lightning strike.


Diagram showing the operating principle for capturing a lightning strike using an early streamer emission conductor

Because the capture of a lightning strike is quicker than with a lightning rod, this technology can be used to protect zones spread over a wider area, thus ensuring the protection of large structures.

The protection radius generated depends on the lightning conductor's triggering advance value (Δt in μs), its height and the effectiveness of the protection, the maximum value being 120 metres (Level III, height = 60 metres).

Typical example :
Protection of an industrial site using an early streamer emission lightning conductor
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