Posted: May 6, 2011 in Papers

The earthing screen and ground wires can well protect the electrical system against direct lightning strokes but they fail to provide protection against travelling waves, which may reach the terminal apparatus. The lightning arresters or surge diverters provide protection against such surges. A lightning arrester or a surge diverter is a protective device, which conducts the high voltage surges on the power system to the ground

Fig 7(i) shows the basic form of a surge diverter. It consists of a spark gap in series with a non-linear resistor. One end of the diverter is connected to the terminal of the equipment to be protected and the other end is effectively grounded. The length of the gap is so set that normal voltage is not enough to cause an arc but a dangerously high voltage will break down the air insulation and form an arc. The property of the non-linear resistance is that its resistance increases as the voltage (or current) increases and vice-versa.

The action of the lightning arrester or surge diverter is as under:

(i) Under normal operation, the lightning arrester is off the line i.e. it conducts no current to earth or the gap is non-conducting

(ii) On the occurrence of over voltage, the air insulation across the gap breaks down and an arc is formed providing a low resistance path for the surge to the ground. In this way, the excess charge on the line due to the surge is harmlessly conducted through the arrester to the ground instead of being sent back over the line.

(iii) It is worthwhile to mention the function of non-linear resistor in the operation of arrester. As the gap sparks over due to over voltage, the arc would be a short-circuit on the power system and may cause power-follow current in the arrester. Since the characteristic of the resistor is to offer low resistance to high voltage (or current), it gives the effect of short-circuit. After the surge is over, the resistor offers high resistance to make the gap non-conducting.


There are several types of lightning arresters in general use. They differ only in constructional details but operate on the same principle viz, providing low resistance path for the surges to the round. Following are the different types of lightning relays:

1. Rod arrester 2.Horn gap arrester

3. Multigap arrester 4. Expulsion type lightning arrester

5. Valve type lightning arrester


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