Researchers with Sandia Labs study lightning’s effects

Cat Montoya
Lightning storm over Albuquerque looking southeast from the west mesa near Paseo del Norte and Rainbow Road. Photo courtesy of Cat Montoya.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are creating lightning in a lab as part of an effort to determine how everything from nuclear weapon components to entire buildings will hold up to Mother Nature.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, Larry Schneider with the labs’ electrical sciences group says they must work when authorized and never function otherwise. He says a direct lighting strike could be a threat.

The lightning simulator has been performing tests since the 1970s, but officials say the focus now is on improving the understanding behind lightning and the ways it interacts with various systems.

Researchers say they’re looking at how lightning flows through lattices of rebar and what kind of electromagnetic forces are generated when protective wiring is exposed to currents that would be equivalent to a lightning strike.

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