How the World's Tallest Buildings Handle Lightning Strikes

The Empire State Building is struck by lightning about 25 times a year.
Loukia Papadopoulos

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Did you know that the taller a building is, the more chances it has to be struck by lightning? For instance, the Empire State Building is struck by lightning about 25 times a year. Now, that's a lot!

To protect these tall buildings against potential danger, engineers use built-in protectors against lightning. These protectors are called lightning protection systems or LPS.

These systems are equipped with three components: air termination systems, conductor systems, and Earth terminating systems. Each of these components has very specific purposes: the first catches incoming lightning bolts, the second redirects the current, and the third sends this current safely into the ground, where it can dissipate.

Air termination systems are generally placed at the highest point of a skyscraper and consist of lightning rods made of conductive metals such as copper or aluminum. How do they work?

What happens once lightning strikes them? What do the rest of the LPS components do? How do they all work together to dissipate lightning strikes? What is the rest of the technology that goes into protecting tall buildings from lightning strikes? How do all these systems combined manage to redirect lighting current into a safe path? We explore all these questions and more in our video.

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