Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical/Computer Engineering

Committee Director

Linda Vahala

Committee Member

Dean Krusienski

Committee Member

Julie Hao


Old Dominion University and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center (LaRC) Aviation Safety Program Atmospheric Environmental Safety Technologies Project team conducted research in using SansEC (Sans Electric Connection) sensors to provide lightning strike protection (LSP) and damage mitigation for composite aircraft. SansEC sensors are simplistic devices consisting of an open circuit conductive trace, shaped in a planar geometric spiral [1], [2], [3]. SansEC sensors can be designed in various shapes and sizes depending on the application. For applications on exterior aircraft surfaces, the sensor must be designed to perform the required lightning strike protection [1], [3].

Lightning-direct effect current tests were conducted on multiple sensor configurations to evaluate their ability to withstand the incident lightning energy and protect the underlying composite [3]. Test results indicated several SansEC sensor geometric configurations demonstrated an intrinsic ability to steer the lightning current along the corner of the sensor [3]. This was a significant finding because when lightning strikes an airplane, its current is channeled onto the aircraft surface at an attachment point and flows along the aircraft surface to the detachment point and can cause damage to critical points on the aircraft that can be catastrophic [3], [4], [5]. The SansEC sensors’ intrinsic ability to steer lightning current could be used to deflect lightning current from an attachment or detachment point to a less critical point on an in-flight aircraft, to mitigate detrimental damage.

To investigate this phenomenology, electromagnetic computational simulations were conducted to calculate the electric field distribution on the SansEC sensors’ conductive trace to determine if the associated electromagnetic radiation preceding lightning attachment establishes modal structures on the conductive trace which predisposition the direction of the current flow [3]. The simulations provided a means to visualize the trace’s modal structure and identified electric field regions residing on the sensor [3]. This thesis presents a correlational study of the SansEC sensors’ computed electric field distribution to the measured lightning propagation direction for various SansEC sensor configurations [3].