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So you were hit by lightning... so what | Cypress Semiconductor

So you were hit by lightning... so what

I’ve got a buddy that swears he is a lightning rod.  He claims he has been in more planes hit by lightning than any other frequent flyer.  He says he can feel the hits in the hair on his arms; he knows the moment they happen.

 

Well, he does fly a bit more than me, and yes, his arms are extremely hairy, but frankly, I was still a bit skeptical.   But then again, maybe I was living through lighting strikes up there in the wild blue yonder as well, and just didn’t have the long arm hairs to prove it.

 

So I googled it and, sure enough, on www.physlink.com  it says “estimates show that each commercial airliner averages one lighting hit per year.”  Fortunately “the last crash that was attributed to lightning was in 1967 when the fuel tank exploded, causing the plane to crash. Generally, the first contact with lightning is at an extremity...the nose or a wingtip. As the plane continues to fly through the areas of opposite charges, the lightning transits through the aircraft skin and exits through another extremity point, frequently the tail (as shown by Gauss's Law).

 

Another related problem with lightning is the effect it can have on computers and flight instruments. Shielding and surge suppressors insure that electrical transients do not threaten the on board avionics and the miles of electrical wiring found in modern aircraft. All components that are vital to the safe operation of commercial aircraft must be certified to meet the stringent regulations of the FAA for planes flying into the United States.”

 

This makes sense, because Cypress’ non-volatile SRAM (nvSRAM) got its start about 30 years ago in military planes.  Imagine the digital displays in the cockpit going black and taking tens of seconds for a reboot each time a surge of electrons pass through the plane.  Then, just as they are about to come back on, another pop takes them down for tens of seconds more.  That would surely raise the arm hairs on even the most competent of pilots.

 

Enter the nvSRAM.  On the strike of lightning, the display configurations are automatically backed up in non-volatile.  Power stabilizes again, and the non-volatile data is automatically moved back to the SRAM.  To the pilot, he may see a flicker as the power surge passes through all his electronics, but his screens and visuals are instantly right back in place.

 

So next time your pilot’s announcement asks you to buckle up for a bumpy approach, and you see that dark storm cloud looming ahead, just fluff up your arm hairs and smile.  Because now you know nvSRAM is up there in the cockpit just waiting to save the displays.

 

Until next trip, Grant

 

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