Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Perforating aircraft wings with minute holes could make for more efficient flying

14.01.2002


One way to make aeroplanes fly more efficiently is to drill millions of tiny holes in the leading edges of the wings. Like the dimples on a golf ball this has the effect of reducing drag. However, producing these holes on a manufacturing scale is not yet commercially feasible.

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the aerospace company BAE SYSTEMS, have carried out a series of fundamental studies on drilling such holes using laser beams. The results of the work are being assessed by BAE SYSTEMS to determine whether the airflow characteristics of holes produced in this way are suitable.

Dr Duncan Hand is a member of the research team. “It’s been known for a long time that arrays of millions of holes, 50 or 60 micrometres in diameter, on the leading edge of aircraft wings can improve the air flow characteristics around the wing,” he says. “But there’s been no cost-effective way of producing these holes accurately, quickly and cheaply – it is important to justify the increased manufacturing costs against any improvement in the aircraft’s efficiency.”



While conventional mechanical drilling techniques are insufficiently accurate and too slow for holes of this size and in these numbers, using lasers to drill the holes might be a feasible option. Here the energy of the laser melts or vaporises the metal, leaving a hole. By splitting the laser beam it would be possible to drill many holes simultaneously.

“If laser drilling is to be considered it’s necessary to know what sort of laser pulse is best, how much energy is needed, what are the most appropriate conditions – all these factors are important,” says Dr Hand.

The Heriot-Watt team has been examining two ways of laser drilling. One is using the laser in a ‘long pulse’ mode, where the pulse of laser energy lasts for around a millisecond. The other is a ‘short pulse’ mode, where the laser pulses are in the range of nanoseconds.

“For the short pulse mode you need many pulses to drill the hole, whereas for the longer pulse mode you only need a single pulse,” says Dr Hand. “While the shorter pulses produce holes which have more geometric uniformity, they take longer to drill. We also found that because the short pulses have a very high peak power, they tend to ionise the gases they come into contact with – both the air layer on the surface of the material and the vaporised metal.” This ionised gas, or plasma, can block a significant proportion of the laser energy.

The main issue with drilling with the longer pulse lasers is that the holes are less uniform. “There is a lot of interest in the variability of geometry of the holes,” says Dr Hand. “We have found that you can control certain parameters in the process to minimise the variability between holes, but there will always be an intrinsic variability. The main question is whether this variability is acceptable. That is something which is now being assessed.”



Jane Reck | alphagalileo

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht A helping (Sens)Hand
11.04.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

nachricht Study sets new distance record for medical drone transport
13.09.2017 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>