The wireless sensors if equipped in the body of the aircraft can transfer vital stress information encountered during flight to the ground team in the course of maintenance inspection. This sensor technology experiment by EADS will diminish the maintenance expenditure of an aircraft by 22% per hour.
The EADS Innovation Works’ and the external co-operation partners’ experts have generated wireless sensors which work on thermo-electricity by converting the flow of heat to electricity using thermoelectric generator.
Dominik Samson, PhD student, EADS Innovation Works said that, in the current aircraft work system, the ground crew inspects every fault within the aircraft and on the installation of sensors in the aircraft ,the aircraft itself will notify the location of errors wirelessly ,to the ground engineer’s PDA, thus ruling out the maintenance on each point.
According to Josef Schalk, the head of communications technology, EADS Innovation Works, establishing a stable source of energy for the sensor in the aircraft was challenging for the expert team since the cables could not be extended upto the apex of the wing of the aircraft and the batteries provided fleeting durability.
The engineers created a sugar cube sized thermoelectric generator to surmount the hurdle in power generation and converted the flow of heat to electricity using the semiconductor device by principal of the Seebeck effect.
Samson also explained that the temperature deviations can be generated artificially on the aircraft’s periphery by linking one end of the generator to a heat-retention facility and the other end to the exterior, cooling it rapidly and creating electricity. He also added that for heat retention, specific sphere shaped containers of water are fabricated which can enhance the thermal conductivity and avert the formation of ice during levitation.
The major temperature fluctuations in and out of the aircraft and during take-off and landing were exploited by this technology.
The EADS expanded a ‘power management’ mechanism to convert the voltage generated into a value adaptable for the sensor and can also store energy. This mechanism had been tested in a climate compartment and the researchers could observe that the sensor nodes used up only few milliwatts and produced and stored adequate amount of energy during the flight for sensor node operation. This energy was sufficient for long flights since the sensor node does not require energy all the time.
This technology needed to be tested in flights for its efficiency. EADS Innovation Works also researches on the utility of thermal energy from the exhaust jet.