Wednesday, April 19, 2017

News: AMRC work out “smart” wings

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Researchers from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing have worked alongside industry partners on a £1m project to protect aircraft wings against ice build-up.

The European Union-funded ELWIPS programme brought together researchers from the AMRC and aerospace companies Meggitt PLC and AeroTex UK.

ELWIPS - the Electro-thermal Laminar Wing Ice Protection System Demonstrator - is a programme managed by aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation. ELWIPS, along with other innovative research programmes aim to develop technologies which will feed into their next generation of aircraft.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and a partner in the HVM Catapult (the government's strategic initiative that aims to revitalise the manufacturing industry), the AMRC focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

The AMRC designed and built a composite wing structure which incorporates innovative electric heating technology and power control systems developed by Meggitt subsidiaries in the UK and France, while world leaders in icing prevention and prediction, AeroTex, determined the sizing, zoning, power rating and control strategy for the heaters.

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A section of wing incorporating the technology was sent to the United States, where it recently completed tests in a special wind tunnel operated by the US air and space agency, NASA, which can cause icing and measure its effect on the wing's aerodynamics.

Dr Tim Swait, Technical Lead at the AMRC Composite Centre, said: "The whole development process has taught us a tremendous amount and generated a lot of data that will be very useful in future projects.

"The heating technology developed by Meggitt is very impressive and has great commercial potential. Tests in the NASA wind tunnel showed it could prevent ice from forming in the first place and would also shed ice if it was allowed to form on the wing.

"If the system is developed commercially it will be a major step forward for lighter aircraft and could have implications for the construction of greener large commercial aircraft."

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is the only large passenger aircraft to use an electrical system to keep wings free from ice and electric heating has been difficult to implement on smaller aircraft because systems currently require substantial amounts of power. Other systems, such as bleeding hot air from the aircraft engine, add weight and effect aerodynamics, hindering performance.

Swait added: "You only actually need icing protection on a limited number of flights and for typically short periods of time, so you are carrying all that extra weight for no reason a lot of the time and aircraft of the future won’t be able to use bleed air, since manufacturers are optimising their engines to extract every last bit of performance."

AMRC website

Images: AMRC


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