Lightning Protection Systems

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Lightning Protection Systems

A lightning strike is the result of an electric discharge between the atmosphere and an object. Most cloud to ground strikes are concentrated to a physical location, which is referred to as a “termination”. Interestingly, the bright flash that we call a lightning strike is only about one inch in diameter, even though it seems to be much more significant to the naked eye, video, and photographs.

Even with the small diameter, lightning strikes can cause some severe damage to equipment and personal. We know that a termination can vary in power, occurs in a fraction of a second, and can cause significant downtime. With so much at stake, the need for lightning protection systems is crucial. Lightning protection systems should provide an extremely low impedance path to ground to reduce significantly the risks associated with a strike.

When it comes to critical applications and expensive equipment, insurance is a must! Helwig Carbon Products has engineered sliding electric contact assemblies explicitly designed for lighting protection. We have engineered these systems for a wide range of industries, from defense, wind power, and telecommunication.

To give the system the best chance for success, our lightning protection systems typically utilize high metal brush grades with excellent current-carrying capabilities. Our constant force brush holders with the appropriate spring force will ensure that the brushes maintain superior electrical contact with the rotating surface. Many of these components will also be exposed to outdoor conditions, potentially causing corrosion, but our systems are robustly engineered to withstand outdoor conditions. Helwig has an extensive list of premium grades with varying properties to best suit your application.  Along with premium grades, we offer cleaning grades to help remove any high resistance oxidation from forming on the contact surface. Reducing the contact resistance in harsh or challenging conditions to maintain a proper path to ground is vital for power ground applications.

“How many brushes do I need for my lightning protection system?”

Before we answer that question, we should note that there is no industry standard on how many brushes you need to ground a lightning strike. We must understand that lightning strikes are either positive or negative, with 90-95% being negative with an average of 30,000 amps! A negative charge simply means there is a transfer on energy from cloud to ground, A.K.A a lightning strike. ⚡

A typical brush and holder combination in our Lightning Protection Systems.

A typical brush and holder combination in our Lightning Protection Systems.

We must also consider that a lighting strike travels near the speed of light, and thus occurs in microseconds – this means that the lightning strike’s duty cycle is EXTREMELY low. The amp capacity rating for our brush grades is rated for continuous current. This rating provides a challenge on offering absolute numbers for the amp capacity related to time. Still, with our extensive experience in material grades, we can say with confidence that our premium grades will handle significant overloads for the lightning’s extremely low duty cycle.

As an engineering-driven company since 1928, we pride ourselves on not just providing high-quality products, but also collaborating with our customers to specify and tailor the parts to the application needs.  Ongoing technical support is provided to our customers to maintain peak performance and reliability. We stock many types of brushes and brush holders that could potentially work in your application. Still, if our stock designs do not satisfy the application criteria, we can custom engineer your lightning protection system.

Overall, the cost of our products is negligible compared to the cost of equipment the lightning protection system is protecting. Please consult with Helwig Engineering if you are planning on protecting your equipment and would like to discuss your application and how we can collaborate on a custom solution.

Admir Karabegovic
Application Analyst
[email protected]

Helwig Carbon Products, Inc. is the premier, family-owned, American manufacturer, of carbon brushes, brush holders, spring assemblies, bearing protection kits, metal graphite brushes, and mechanical carbons. Since 1928, we have forged innovations that have since become industry standards and requirements. We pride our self on manufacturing all of our products to the highest standard and performance because we know your application depends on it!


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