THÉGRA, France --- ITHPP has developed, for the Direction Générale de l’Armement, the French Armament Procurement Agency, SOFI, a generator capable of reproducing the indirect effects of lightning. This device makes it possible to assess the impact of lightning on materials and systems that have to meet specific lightning requirements, in particular aeronautical aircraft.
On average, an aircraft is struck by lightning every 1500 hours of flying time. In order to lighten the weight of aircrafts to improve their performance, lighter composite materials replace metallic fuselage parts. The result is a decrease in the "faraday cage" effect. It is therefore essential to assess the vulnerability of such devices to the effects of lightning.
ITHPP designed the SOFI generator to assess the indirect effects of lightning. It does this by applying pulsed power to simulate the indirect effects of a current flow into an aircraft. ITHPP developed SOFI for the DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement, the French government defence agency). This system is a significant technological achievement for several reasons:
-- Ecologically: this generator does not use SF6. SF6 is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, commonly used in the high-power systems due to its excellent insulating properties. ITHPP replaced SF6 with ambient air. More over the system only requires 100L of dielectric oil to insulate parts of the system which are under heavy electrical stress.
-- Technically: SOFI is a three-in-one system, designed to deliver an A-wave, it can also generate two other standard waveforms used to assess the vulnerability of a system to lightning, thus multiplying the possibilities of tests.
-- Logistically: Very often, high-voltage generators are bulky and heavy devices that are not designed to be moved. They remain for life on their installation site. SOFI is a portable system, which can be stored and transported in two containers. Only two people are required to assemble and disassemble the system.
Once deployed, the total structure has a footprint of 6x5.5 meters and a height of approximately 8 meters.
SOFI can be used to assess various aircraft structures (planes, helicopters, UAVs etc.). It can also be exploited to assess the vulnerability to lightning of land based vehicles and heavy weapon systems.
ITHPP is a very high technology company based in the South-West of France, leader in high-power pulsed systems. High Pulsed Power is a set of technologies that amplify the electrical power delivered by a system by reducing the duration of the pulse. ITHPP thus produces systems capable of delivering currents of several million amperes and voltages of several million volts for durations that can be less than one hundred billionth of a second. In general, High Pulse Power can be used to meet the needs of research and nuclear physics.
Specialized in defence and security applications, the company has diversified its activities by developing solutions for civil industry. In particular, it designs equipment for sterilization by electron beams for the pharmaceutical industry and grinding systems for the mining sector.