Aircraft Lightning Strike Protection

Copper and Aluminum Expanded MicroGrid® material made to protect composite structures against lightning strikes.

  • Lightweight & flexible
  • Single unit structure won’t unravel
  • Controlled open area conductivity to 200,000 amps

Composites & Dexmet Lightning Strike Protection

Aircraft Lightning Strike Protection

Aluminum has been the principal material used in aircraft and aerospace construction for the past 60 years. With the growing interest to construct more efficient aircraft, manufacturers are designing more components out of light-weight composite materials. Current composite structures include engine nacelles, flaps, wing tips, and even rotary blades on helicopters and wind turbines. Composites, however, are poor conductors of electrical current. Without proper protection, they are susceptible to severe damage in the event of a lightning strike. When Dexmet expanded aluminum and copper MicroGrid materials are incorporated into the surface of these composite structures, the lightning strike energy is dissipated over the surface of the component, which prevents damage to the composite material below.

MicroGrid® precision expanded metal foils from Dexmet are the materials of choice for lightning strike protection in composite aircraft structures. Dexmet is the exclusive supplier for Boeing, principle supplier for Embraer, and preferred vendor to a majority of aircraft manufactures around the world. Aircraft manufacturers are quickly realizing the benefits of using Dexmet’s advanced expanded materials over the outdated technology of woven wire.

MicroGrid’s single unit structure is superior to woven material in that it won’t unravel or have loose strands that become problematic during processing into a pre-preg material or when conducting a dry lay-up. The homogenous design also ensures uncompromised conductivity between strands when forming the material to a variety of shapes and contours and provides a smooth surface on the end product. MicroGrid’s biggest advantage is Dexmet’s ability to tightly control the manufacturing process to meet a specific weight, open area, and conductivity requirement. This allows Engineers the option of varying materials according to specific strike zones on the aircraft, minimizing the overall weight. Our common materials have the ability to withstand a Zone 1A strike of 200,000 amps.

Click the Charts tab above to compare commonly processed materials for lightning strike protection in composite aircraft structures. Other alloys, metals, thicknesses and pattern sizes are available. Please consult with our sales and engineering professionals for specific material characteristics in regard to your particular application.

As the application of composite aero structures has increased, the effect of lightning strike damage and the structural tolerance necessary to absorb this damage has required further test investigation. To enhance the damage tolerance capability of composite sandwich structures used for commercial nacelle applications subjected to lightning strike effects, it has been an industry practice to use a series of external metal mesh products such as copper, aluminum, phosphorous bronze wire interwoven with carbon, nickel coated interwoven carbon fiber, and nickel coated non-woven veils. Certain configurations also employed various isolation materials, usually fiberglass. These protective materials have produced varying levels of post-strike damage results. For further information. please contact Dexmet’s Lightning Strike Technology manager, Brett Macdonald at (203) 294-7867 or email him at

Go to the technical document section or click on the provided link to download the paper, Lightning Strike Protection for Carbon Fiber Aircraft. This document explores the comparative results of performing lightning strike damage testing on a series of thin skinned honeycomb panels using protective metal mesh materials. Damage assessments were performed using ultrasonic and visual non-destructive inspection methods.

Below are charts of commonly processed materials for lightning strike protection in composite aircraft structures. Other alloys, metals, thicknesses and pattern sizes are available. Please consult with our sales engineers for specific material characteristics in regard to your particular aircraft structure.

Aluminum Material

Aluminum Material Chart

Copper Material

 Copper Material Chart

Flattened Copper Material

 Flattened Copper Material Chart

Explanation of Product Code:

Example: 2CU4 – 100FA

First number represents nominal original thickness
2 = 0.002″ (0.051 mm)

Letters are chemical symbol for material
CU = Copper

Number immediately following letters represents strand width
4 = 0.004″ (0.102 mm)

Last number indicates the long way of the diamond
100 = 0.100″ (2.54 mm)
Any letters following the code stand for post-production processes
F = Flattened
A = Annealed

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