Lightning rods can be a lifesaver if you live in an area that is prone to thunderstorms. They can protect your property from damage. But it’s important to know a thing or two about lightning rods before you think about installing them. For instance, are lightning rods made of metal?

The primary characteristic shared by all lightning rods is their construction from conductive metals like copper and aluminum. Most lightning rods and lightning strike protection systems are made of copper and copper alloys.

Keep reading below for more information.

What are Lightning Rods?

Lightning is the result of an electrical discharge between positively and negatively charged particles in a cloud. It has the potential to wipe out entire neighborhoods, killing countless people and animals along the way. 

The taller the building, the greater the threat of lightning. For example, this video explains how the tall building known as Burj Khalifa works as the region’s lightning rod:

How The Burj Khalifa Is Dubai’s Lighting Rod | Richard Hammond’s Big

The lightning causes the materials to overheat, which starts a fire. Therefore, a Lightning Conductor safeguards the structure from electrical storms.

A lightning conductor is an electrically grounded rod installed on the roof of a structure to prevent damage from lightning. If lightning were to strike a building, this conductor would take the initial hit instead, avoiding the risk of fire and electrocution. It creates a direct route into the ground that lightning can use to discharge its energy without harming the buildings around it.

The “path” or earthing system runs from the roof to the basement. Through a thick metal strip, the conductor offers a low-resistance path from the rod’s tip all the way down to the earth below. So the lightning current is redirected away from the structure and into the rod.

The lightning conductor is an inductive device. After being inductively charged by a fully charged cloud that passes by the building, the charge eventually makes its way to the earth via the earthing system. 

The electrical length of its rod is guaranteed to exceed its actual physical length. When an electric field is sufficiently strong, the air itself becomes a conductor, and this field is strongest around pointed objects relative to those with flatter surfaces.

There are a few different names for lightning conductors, including lightning rods, finials, air terminals, and strike termination devices. They come in various shapes and materials, including hollow, solid, pointed, rounded, flat strip, and bristle brush varieties.

History of Lightning Rods

The mastery of electricity fundamentally altered the course of human history. The invention of the lightning rod is, among other things, a major turning point in history. Using Benjamin Franklin’s idea, lightning could be drawn to safe locations. As a result, people no longer feared natural disasters.

The name Thomas Edison, credited with the invention of the light bulb, is frequently attributed to the lightning rod. But the truth is that this medal ought to be draped around the neck of Benjamin Franklin, who was both a politician and a scientist. Franklin was one of the first people to suggest daylight savings time as a strategy for conserving energy.

Franklin’s enthusiasm for studying electricity led him to focus on a phenomenon that had been largely ignored by scientists up until that point. After his kite was destroyed by lightning while he was out enjoying the wind, the inventive scientist began to wonder if there was a way to draw in the natural phenomenon intentionally.

On June 15, 1752, he finally captured another bolt after tying metal keys to his kites and flying them during storms. The kite’s string conducted electricity to the key. By doing so, he proved that metal objects could divert lightning strikes away from more vulnerable targets.

Are Lightning Rods Made of Metal?

Yes, lightning rods are indeed made of metal. This is because lightning rods need to be made of conductive materials to provide a pathway for the electrical charges caused by lightning to travel through and reach the earth’s surface. 

Copper and aluminum, both of which are conductors, are suitable materials to use when making a lightning rod because of this reason. Materials like wood and plastic act as insulators, blocking the flow of any electrical current. This means that they are not an ideal option for use in lightning rods.

The Invention of the Modern Lightning Rod by Nikola Tesla

Since Franklin came up with his brilliant plan, there has been a substantial amount of rain and thunder. However, many lightning rods are still used today in his exact style, almost 300 years after his invention. The conduction line features copper and a subterranean dissipater, and the metal bar has a copper tip.

There were substantial changes made to this, though. Nikola Tesla, the man credited with discovering alternate current, made significant advancements in technology in 1918. He understood that the ionization of the air at the end of the lightning rod was what drew the bolts to it. 

Converting the circulating air into a conductor could result in catastrophic damage if not properly monitored. As a result, the modern lightning rod, which has a large base and a single point at which the lightning can be collected, was born.

The lightning rod eventually became more sophisticated as a result of the merging of new materials and new technologies, particularly in two areas:

Lightning rods that use electrostatic charge to deionize the air around them are designed to stop lightning from striking a building. Most experts agree that its effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated.

Discharge devices mounted on lightning rods are used to gauge the electrostatic potential of clouds and thus predict when lightning will strike. When they pick it up, they send an electromagnetic pulse skyward to catch the bolt in midair. By swerving towards the lightning rods, the potential damage from the bolt is mitigated.


So now you know the basics of a lightning rod. If you’re worried about lightning striking your home, lightning rods are an effective prevention strategy that can save you lots of money (and possibly your life too.)