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Rakov is studying how to more effectively protect airplanes from lightning.

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Vladimir Rakov

Vladimir Rakov

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
College of Engineering

For most, a crack of thunder is a signal to find a sturdy hiding place. For Martin Uman and Vladimir Rakov, it means the fun is about to begin.

Uman, one of the world’s leading authorities on lightning, and Rakov professors in UF’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. They also are key faculty members of UF’s Lightning Research Group, which operates the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing on 100 acres at Camp Blanding near Starke.

Among their recent projects: gathering new information about how to more effectively protect airplanes from lightning.

One of their more effective — and spectacular — research techniques involves shooting wire-trailing rockets into storm clouds to trigger a bolt from the blue. When the lightning strikes, they then look at what happened where it zaps the ground.

In the process of a recent experiment, they made an interesting find: lightning emits X-rays. “I think it’s really exciting,” Uman said. “We didn’t expect to see anything at all, and then, all of a sudden, with almost every lightning stroke, we had X-rays.”

The data gathered by a recording machine also shed light on the physics of lightning strikes, Uman said.

“We’re going to settle lots of problems that exist in the scientific literature about this issue with this superior experiment,” he said.

Photo credit: Kristen Bartlett Grace — University Photography

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