Industrial Design student Kama Jania from the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Poland has created a working prototype of a lightning-proof tent. The Bolt tent is part of a series of three different tents that are each designed to protect users from direct lightning strikes and step voltage (when lightning current or discharge flows between the ground and the feet of a person).
Jania was inspired to create the tent after reading statistics about how many people are actually struck by lightning each year, fueled by her very own fear of thunderstorms.
"When I was a child I was terrified by loud thunder and lightning, even when I was at home," Kama Jania tells Gizmag. "Now I am also scared of thunderstorms, but only in open spaces, particularly in the mountains. I love outdoor activities such hiking and climbing and sometimes I find myself in a difficult situation, especially when a storm comes in. Thus I created the Bolt series of tents."
To create the very first lightning-proof prototype, Jania used aluminum poles and an aluminum connector, which can withstand 200 kiloamperes. A waterproof fabric was used for the flooring of the tent, along with Mylar insulation and copper wiring which is connected to the ground stakes.
Under the supervision of Professor Michał Kracik PhD, and alongside physicists Konrad Sobolewski and Aleksander Bogucki, Jania took on the long process of working out the exact calculations and collaborations needed to test the Bolt tent against high voltage contact, without it going up in flames or causing severe damage to the materials.
The prototype tent underwent multiple high voltage experiments, using discharges from an impulse voltage generator. Jania placed an electrode inside the tent, to represent the occupant's head and a high current generator was used to test the durability of the tent.
Jania notes that "some scorching appeared at the pole joints due to the very high temperatures reached at those points. The stakes, which laid freely on the laboratory floor during the tests, melted to some extent. Again, it was a result of the high temperatures generated at those points during the discharges."
Apart from the above, the experiments were a great success and demonstrated the tent's ability to protects its occupant from direct lightning strikes.
"I also tested a tent in the mountains during downpour and strong wind," adds Jania. "I spent more than six hours inside the tent without any break and it's comfortable. It's also really easy to use; the lock mechanism located in poles automatically set up the tent."
The three Bolt tents are made from lightweight and waterproof materials, aluminum rods and pegs. They are a good idea for people who enjoy hiking or exploring the outdoors and all three versions are compact, easy enough to carry without too much additional weight and can be set up in a matter of minutes.
The Bolt Half is a lightweight (1.2 kg/2.65 lb) pop-up shelter that is suitable for day trips only, as there is not enough room to lie down or sleep. It offers full lightning protection as well as shelter from heavy rain, wind and thunderstorms. Due to its compact size it can easily be assembled in a myriad of locations, including riverbeds, a mountain ledge or ridge.
Bolt-One is a compact one-person tent, which also offers lightning protection and shelter from the elements. This tent can be used for overnight trips and is comfortable enough to sleep in.
The third version, the Bolt Air, is described as an ultra-lightweight pneumatic shelter, suitable as a camping accessory or once again for day trips and hiking. Similar to the Bolt Half, it can offer protection for one to two people seated and features a groundsheet that protects against step voltage. "Thanks to its size, it can be quickly and easily put up in places unsuitable for standard tents," says Jania. "It is designed for day-long trips where additional weight would be burdensome."
There are no current plans to take the Bolt tents into production, Jania says that she's looking for commercial partners to develop the project. She's planning on completing her master's degree next year and is already plotting away at an idea of how to create a device that can collect water from different atmospheric heights.
The video below illustrates one of Jania's BOLT tent experiments in action.