Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Lightning strikes, in the form of bits and bytes

Date:
October 20, 2011
Source:
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Summary:
Scientists are utilizing a superfast computer system for simulating lightning strikes. Their objectives are arriving at better understandings of the effects of lightning strikes on humans and machinery and better predictions of those effects.

Scientists at the Technische Universität Darmstadt are utilizing a superfast computer system for simulating lightning strikes. Their objectives are arriving at better understandings of the effects of lightning strikes on humans and machinery and better predictions of those effects.

Related Articles


The scenario sounds horrifying: A lightning bolt strikes the ground just eleven meters from a pedestrian. Whether he survives the strike will depend upon, among other things, the length of his stride. Fortunately, the scene took place in a computer, rather than outdoors, and the pedestrian involved was a computer model of a human being, rather than a living person. The lightning bolt also existed exclusively in the form of bits and bytes. A team of researchers, led by Professors Thomas Weiland and Irina Munteanu of the Institute for the Theory of Electromagnetic Fields (TEMF) at the TU Darmstadt, did the programming.

Prof. Munteanu noted that, "We want to observe what goes on in the bodies of people present near a lightning strike at the time of the strike." Since the currents flowing through human beings cannot be measured, a computer model is necessary for assessing the currents to which their hearts are subjected when lightning strikes near them. The researchers also simulated lightning bolts striking passenger aircraft carrying a full load of passengers and automobiles equipped with sunroofs. In the latter case, for example, they found that field strengths were much higher in the vicinities of their driver's head than was the case for automobiles having conventional, one-piece, metal roofs.

Every lightning strike consisted of hundreds of Terabytes of data

The methods that Weiland and Munteanu's team has developed will be of great interest to engineers. As Munteanu put it, "For example, they can use them for optimizing grounding systems," since more accurate knowledge of the currents involved means that grounding systems will no longer need to be overdimensioned. Furthermore, their simulations will contribute to effectively shielding aircrafts' onboard electronics against lightning strikes. They are also able, in principle, to simulate electromagnetic fields generated by other sources, such as the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile telephones when they are utilized inside aircraft. Prof. Munteanu added that, "If the field strengths involved were accurately known, aircraft cockpits could be effectively shielded against them." The professor of engineering believes that her team's simulations might accelerate development processes. She went on to state that, "Although computer simulations cannot totally replace direct measurements, they eliminate need for building numerous prototypes, most of which will turn out to be unsuitable once measurements have been made." That alone will save a lot of time and money.

The Darmstadt researchers are treading new pathways with their simulations, since their models are highly detailed. Their models are, in a sense, assembled from virtual building blocks. They have configured sheet-metal and plastic building blocks for automobiles and bone and brain-tissue building blocks for human beings. However, in order to arrive at reliable, accurate results, the building blocks employed must be chosen extremely small if all details are to be incorporated, which means that a complex model will consist of large numbers of such building blocks. For example, a reasonable model of a passenger aircraft carrying a full load of passengers consists of around a billion such building blocks.

The institute's computer cluster solves Maxwell's equations for every one of those building blocks. However, even that is not enough. In order to simulate the temporal courses of the processes occurring, solutions of those same equations must be reiterated, over and over again, for each point in time. As Munteanu put it, "A total of hundreds of terabytes of data must be computed, saved, and graphically displayed."

The researchers had to dig deep in their box of tricks in order to prevent such computations from taking years. Following every computation for a simulated object at a given point in time, the results of computations must be exchanged as efficiently as possible between the around 172 computers in the cluster, which requires some clever programming. Furthermore, the simulations are run on superfast graphics cards, rather than on slower, conventional microprocessors. On that point, Munteanu stated that, "In order to do that, we needed sound knowledge of both the hardware and software involved." In the future, that knowledge will be utilized for simulating further, spine-tingling scenarios.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universität Darmstadt. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Technische Universität Darmstadt. "Lightning strikes, in the form of bits and bytes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111019104537.htm>.
Technische Universität Darmstadt. (2011, October 20). Lightning strikes, in the form of bits and bytes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111019104537.htm
Technische Universität Darmstadt. "Lightning strikes, in the form of bits and bytes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111019104537.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins