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 New players, standardization and digitalization for more rail freight transport
16.07.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

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

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: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

The dawn of a new era for genebanks - molecular characterisation of an entire genebank collection

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Fish recognize their prey by electric colors

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Ultrasound Connects

13.11.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>