Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

On airplanes, fiber optics poised to reach new heights

20.09.2006
Safer, more reliable optical switches may replace electrical wiring in cockpits

In an effort to provide safer and more reliable components for aircraft, researchers have invented an optical on-off switch that can replace electrical wiring on airplanes with fiber optics for controlling elevators, rudders, and other flight-critical elements. Fiber-optics technology has already transformed life on the ground by replacing copper wire to transmit voice calls, Internet traffic, and other telecommunications. Now, engineers are preparing an important new fiber-optics application for liftoff, with their prototype switch ready for testing on real-life aircraft. The technology also has potential applications on the nation's highways, as a "weigh-in-motion" sensor for measuring the weight of fast-moving commercial trucks without requiring them to stop on a scale. The research is described by Zhaoxia Xie and Henry F. Taylor of Texas A&M University in the current issue of Optics Letters, a journal of the Optical Society of America.

Xie and Taylor's new optical device is simple, but vital for an aircraft: it's an on-off switch. It senses the press of a button from a pilot. Such switches are usually electrically based and require electrical wiring which could get complex and bulky with the many buttons in cockpits and throughout an aircraft. But a system based on a single optical fiber could potentially sense presses from hundreds of buttons simultaneously by detecting light signals coming from different buttons. The crucial component of the Texas A&M switch is called a fiber Fabry-Perot interferometer (FFPI). It consists of two parallel mirrors. When white light passes through the mirrors, some of it bounces between the mirrors, and some passes through. These light waves combine or "interfere" to produce a pattern. The interference pattern changes if the distance between the mirrors changes.

In the Texas A&M design, a small plank-like object, known as a cantilever, is bonded to the interferometer. The cantilever, in turn, is attached to a switch. Pressing the switch creates a force on the cantilever, which causes it to bend, changing the spacing between the mirrors and thereby altering the interference pattern. The altered interference pattern provides a signal to indicate that the switch has been pressed. This information can be transmitted optically to the desired part of the airplane. A network of other interferometers and lasers filters out fluctuations in temperature and other disturbances so that only the pressing of the button registers as a valid signal.

Using fiber optics to transmit signals has specific advantages for aircraft. A fiber-optics system is lightweight and does not take up much room. It is immune from lightning and electromagnetic interference. It also is a safer alternative for planes as it is not susceptible to causing fires. At least 26 accidents or serious incidents in aircraft since 1983 were caused by fires or other failures related to electrical wiring systems, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The fiber-optic approach is intended for both military and commercial aircraft. It could either be incorporated into new designs or retrofitted into existing aircraft. Voice communications equipment in newer aircraft is already fiber-optics based, says lead author Xie. Therefore, integrating other aircraft instrumentation into a single optics package could save weight, space, fuel, and construction costs on future aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has been among the supporters of this research. The next step is to test this system on a real airplane.

According to Xie, the technology also has potential applications for other modes of transportation.

"Due to the sheer value of car and truck traffic on our highways, current weighing systems using slow and cumbersome static scales aren't a viable option. Therefore there's a strong demand for an economic, effective and reliable 'weigh-in-motion' system," comments Xie. In the FFPI weigh-in-motion system, the optical sensors would be bonded in a groove of metal bars to measure the strain induced by the truck wheels passing. This could provide an alternative to cumbersome and time-consuming stops that trucks must currently make in highways, she says.

Angela Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osa.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration
18.10.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center

nachricht Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
18.10.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>