The design, alignment, calibration, and field deployment of a solid-state lightning detector is described. The primary sensing component of the detector is a potassium dihydrogen phosphate electro-optic crystal that is attached in series to a flat-plate aluminum antenna; the antenna is exposed to the ambient thundercloud electric field. A semiconductor laser diode (λ = 685 nm), polarizing optics, and the crystal are arranged in a Pockels cell configuration. Lightning-caused electric field changes are related to small changes in the transmission of laser light through the optical cell. Several hundred lightning electric field change excursions were recorded during five thunderstorms that occurred in the summer of 1998 at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in northern Alabama.
© 1999 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: December 7, 1998
Revised Manuscript: March 29, 1999
Published: July 20, 1999
William J. Koshak and Richard J. Solakiewicz, "Electro-optic lightning detector," Appl. Opt. 38, 4623-4634 (1999)