The National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University is assisting the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on research involving a new NASA-developed wireless sensor technology that could revolutionize aircraft health monitoring.
NIAR is working with NIA and NASA engineers to conduct analysis and simulation to optimize the Sans Electrical Connection (SansEC) Smart Skin Design for use on composite aircraft structures. The SansEC sensor is a wireless electromagnetic resonator that can sense changes in electromagnetic impedance of the materials in its close proximity.
The sensor has also been proven to provide aircraft lightning strike protection, damage detection and diagnoses. NIAR will help develop, test and certify the sensor. Paul Jonas, director of the NIAR's Environmental Test labs, is the project lead.
"What makes this sensor so exciting is that we can use it in conjunction with the existing copper material typically used for lightning strike protection and gain all of the additional functionality of the sensor while providing equal or better lightning strike protection," said Jonas. "NIAR has developed a strong analytical capability in the field of indirect effects of lightning and the support of this sensor falls directly in the center of that expertise."
In addition, NIAR has a strong core in composite materials which will be essential in optimizing the processes required to integrate the SansEC sensor into structures seamlessly.
"The SansEC sensor has other implications as well," said Jonas. "Imagine a fuel gauge that doesn't have to be located inside the fuel tank."
Because the sensor is wireless, it can be placed on the outside of the tank and still use electromagnetic property changes to sense the addition or removal of fuel from the tank.
"This work will further strengthen our capability in aircraft lightning protection, test and analysis," said Jonas. "Being directly tied to industry in developing new materials and products is truly unique. This is groundbreaking technology and we are honored to be teamed with NIA and NASA on this project."