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Mechanical Forces Due to Lightning Strikes to Aircraft

   Cardiff School of Engineering

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  Dr C A Featherston, Dr Z Wu, Prof M Haddad  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Lightning attachment to aircraft occurs on average once every 10,000 hours of flight time. Until recently it has been the high currents (up to 200kA) involved that have been of most concern, with the associated mechanical forces of the acoustic shock, magnetic forces and explosion due to external paint layers seen as less significant. However, with the advent of composite aircraft structures these mechanical forces have become much more important. Accurate quantification of the deflection of a composite plate under lightning strike is important in determining potential damage and consequent reduction in material properties.
A proposed methodology has been developed to estimate the peak acoustic shock overpressure resulting from a lightning attachment. This methodology is based on the use of an optical measurement technique to obtain full field data on the out–of-plane displacement of a panel during lightning strike combined with finite element modelling to replicate these effects and hence enable panel design to be optimised.
Initial work has used high speed video to provide data on the deflection of a single point on the panel under differing levels of strike. This project will build on this using the high speed digital image correlation (DIC) technique to capture this out of plane displacement data across the complete panel.
The data obtained will be used to validate finite element models of the effects of the strike to be used to optimise panel design. Models created in the Multiphysics software COMSOL will be further developed to incorporate the dynamic properties of a range of panels.
The project is linked to ongoing work with Airbus and Hexcel and will be carried out in conjunction with the Morgan Botti Lightning laboratory, a unique facility based at the university and established in collaboration with Airbus for the study of lightning effects on aircraft structures.

Candidates should hold or expect to gain a first class degree or a good 2.1 and/or an appropriate Master’s level qualification (or their equivalent).

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent)

Funding Notes

The studentship is funding through the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership and Cardiff School of Engineering. It consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£14,296p.a. for 2016/17, updated each year). Additional funding is available over the course of the programme and will cover costs such as research consumables, training, conferences and travel.

Eligibility: We welcome applications from both UK and EU applicants.


In the first instance candidates who are interested are asked to apply through our SIMs system on the following website:


Please ensure that you choose the 'October 2017' start whilst applying.

On the funding page of the application please use the reference 'DTP2017-CF' when stating the funder

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview after the closing date.
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