Cutting edge research done by graduating local academic

Dr Fisher graduated with a PhD in Electrical and Communication Engineering during the recent 50th Graduation of PNGUoT.

By Augustine Dominic

A career local academic who graduated with a PhD in Electrical Engineering has made a cutting edge research into the preventive measures of electric storms on aircraft.

Dr Joseph Fisher, who is dubbed as the first national to receive a PhD in Electrical Engineering at PNGUoT has presented an important new computational tool to analyse and evaluate aircraft performance in the vicinity of thunderclouds and how microelectronic systems may be shielded and the aircraft body designed to reduce adverse interaction and to zone the aircraft for protection purposes.

He explained that electric storms remain a complex phenomenon that cannot be controlled and or be prevented and it poses a serious threat to aircraft safety especially during landing and take-off as most lightning strikes to aircraft occur at low altitude.

He said these threats are heightened further with aircraft industries continuously modifying and or adopting new designs and materials into the aircraft design for fast travel and reduce fuel cost.

 “For an aircraft skin of metallic airframe the lightning discharged current which can reach up to 200, 000 Amperes is easily dissipated along the conductive airframe while a modern aircraft designed of Carbon Fibre Composite airframe skin for fast travel and reduced fuel cost, lightning discharged current tend to reside along the surface longer,” said Dr Fisher.

He said the longer the discharged current of the electric storm resides on the surface of the aircraft, it can penetrate into the aircraft electronics through resistive and electromagnetic coupling to impair the performance of an aircraft. Thus, the need to harden aircraft protection systems against moderate to severe electric storm is of paramount importance to the aerospace industries.

Dr Fisher’s thesis investigates the electrostatic (pre-lightning strike) and the electrodynamics (lightning strike) impact of direct effects of electric storms and lightning flashes on a commercial aircraft, the biggest aircraft Airbus A380, and the military aircraft, F16 Fighter Jet of carbon fibre composites and metallic (aluminium) airframes.

A novel computational tool using the three-dimensional (3-D) dipole method is used in his research to evaluate (i) the impact of electrostatic charge build up on aircraft near-ground during thunderstorms, and (ii) the potential damage of the return stroke due to the electrodynamics of aircraft interaction with lightning.

Dr Fisher said the 3-D dipole charge simulation method introduced and fully tested in in the research is a powerful tool for carrying out lightning prestrike evaluation of both commercial and military aircraft performance in the vicinity of a thundercloud.

He said that it is impossible to subject the full body of an aircraft to high voltage laboratory tests, and the dipole charge simulation method allows an aircraft of any size to be subjected to a computer simulation high voltage test in the vicinity of a thundercloud of any size and electric charge distribution.

“This allows, for instance, the aircraft designer as well as electrical protection engineer, to subject the aircraft to be tested for static electric field test, electric charge accumulation of the aircraft surface, and electric potential build up as the aircraft approaches a thundercloud,” said Dr Fisher. 

He said it is important especially in perfecting the aircraft design to minimize the adverse electric effects, minimize the probability of the aircraft initiating a lightning strike, and also to determine the parts of the aircraft where critical navigational, communication and power control electronics will be safe from induced electric stress and to zone the aircraft for lightning strikes.

“Further, the prestrike calculation of potential and electric charges on the aircraft body is used to accurately determine the capacitance distribution of the aircraft body which is applied in the transmission line model of lightning-aircraft electrodynamics to determine the transient currents and voltage produced on the aircraft when struck by lightning, said Dr Fisher.

The results were validated using the currently existing, although limited, experimental data on pre-lightning strike electrostatic field enhanced zones.

Dr Fisher is from Kari Village in the Manus Province. He completed undergraduate studies here at Unitech in 1989 was awarded the Council Medal for his outstanding academic performance. He further completed his Master in Engineering Studies in Wollongong University, Australia in 1993.

He has over 28 years of teaching experience as a lecturer mostly here at Unitech and served 5 years as a Senior Lecturer within the Physics strand at University of Papua New Guinea.

A relieved Dr Fisher expressed that hard work and perseverance paid off as it was a big challenge and a burden to him for taking full-time teaching load and doing PhD study at the same time.

“There is a need for cutting edge research in Papua New Guinea in the fields of natural sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and social sciences.  It just requires the drive and motivation, said Dr Fisher.

He added that the government is not investing enough in research and he would like to suggest that all MPs to contribute 10 per cent of their DSIP grants into research at universities as the fund will go a long way in promoting research and human resource development in PNG.

His favourite quote in life is from an unknown author; “You do not have to better than everybody else.  You should strive to be better than you ever thought you could be”. 

Dr Fisher would like to encourage researcher to always build and maintain effective working relationships with your supervisors, fellow researchers, and others and have an attitude of openness to constructive feedback from supervisors and progress review panels

“Maintain a pro-active approach to getting on with your work, expanding your subject knowledge, and developing your skills and always reflect on your progress and look at ways to improve your performance,” said Dr Fisher.

He challenged intending PhD researchers that the name tag ‘doctor’ should not be the primary motivation of their research, but their primary objective is to be at the cutting edge of your research. 

“Your research and publication work should not stop when you achieve the PhD. Continue to research and publish in your area,” encouraged Dr Fisher.

He would like to thank his principal research supervisor Professor Paul Hoole, and co-supervisors Professor Kandasamy Pirapaharan and Professor Samuel Hoole.  He is grateful to the supervisors for their supervision and their guidance to complete the thesis and publishing 8 papers in international journals.

He is grateful to the University for the funding support for 2016-2017 and also expresses his gratitude to his family for their undivided support during the course of his research.

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Download the newsletter | April 2018