Noise Reduction Research to Advance Aviation Industry


Dr. Bisham Sharma in his labWichita State University is leading a research effort to develop a next generation acoustic liner for aircraftengines to reduce aircraft noise and expand where planes may fly.

The research project will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Honeywell Aerospace, Spirit AeroSystems, and ERG Materials and Aerospace Corporation.

Dr. Bhisham Sharma, a WSU assistant professor of aerospace engineering, is the lead investigator on the project, which received a $750,000 three-year grant from NASA.

“In simple words, [the goal] is trying to make airplanes quieter," Sharma said. “We will be focusing on developing new kinds of structural materials, which should help us absorb more of the sound which is coming out from the aircraft engines.”

The research is driven by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations that aim to reduce the general population’s exposure to aircraft noise. Those regulations directly influence the location of new airports and expansion of current runways at existing airports.

New technology to reduce aircraft engine noise will overcome engineering hurdles for the development of air taxis and new supersonic aircraft. Though it may seem like something from the distant future, flight noise will only get worse as companies like Uber look to develop air taxis and bring them
into urban areas, Sharma said.

“The reason why we have airports located outside the city is because people don’t want to hear aircraft landing and taking off all the time,” Sharma said. “So, every little bit of noise that
we reduce, that helps.”

One constraint in reducing the noise, Sharma said, is to make sure that developed materials are still lightweight. “That will also help with the fuel consumption because the lighter [an aircraft] is, the lower amount of fuel it will require,” he said. “Our goal is to help reduce this noise by bringing together all
our different expertise and developing new sound absorbing materials that can be installed directly over the aircraft engine rotor – the number one source of aircraft noise,” Sharma said.

Dell Inc. is also investing in Sharma’s sound-reduction research because the company sees potential benefits for making computer servers and workstations quieter and energy efficient.

Engineers plan to develop lightweight, minimal-thickness liners using advanced cellular porous materials engineered to provide high sound absorption over a wide frequency range
and capable of withstanding extreme engine environments, according to the project summary.

“As a world leader in manufacturing acoustically treated aerospace structures, Spirit is continuously striving for the next breakthrough in acoustics technology,” said Eric Hein, Spirit’s Senior Director for Research & Technology. “Spirit looks forward to combining our industry perspective with NASA’s
world-class expertise and the research team Wichita State has assembled to develop the next generation of noise reduction and acoustic technologies for aerospace.”

The grant will be administered through the NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program.

This program establishes partnerships between government, higher education and industry designed to address high-priority NASA research and technology development needs in a manner that creates lasting improvements in a state’s or region’s research and development infrastructure and competitiveness.

Engineering students researching alongside Sharma will be able to test materials on site at Spirit AeroSystems. Four undergraduates, one master’s and two doctorate students are currently set to help with the project.

Contributing: Daniel Caudill of The Sunflower