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Aircraft Reliability Through Intelligent Materials Application


An acute need exists to be able to develop the capability of reliably monitoring aircraft structural health in real-time. Real-time structural health monitoring will improve the overall safety and make it possible to replace corrective or preventive maintenance modes with much more efficient predictive or proactive maintenance procedures, thus reducing the associated costs. Similarly, vibrations and noise levels are still too high in certain aircraft. Systems based on smart materials, defined as solid-state actuators activated by external fields, can address all these factors.

Project objectives

The objective of the ARTIMA project is to achieve a significant improvement in aircraft reliability through the application of smart materials. These materials are considered ideal, both for reducing the probability of failure through vibration control and for detecting in time the defects that have already occurred.

The proposed project will provide the momentum to produce realistic industrial solutions for real-time structural health monitoring and aircraft vibration reduction. The most promising methods will be tested on large-scale specimens, including a portion of a commuter aircraft fuselage. A network consisting of several production companies, research institutes and universities will achieve the project’s goals. The expertise developed as part of this project will be ideal to stimulate the creation and development of small, high-tech enterprises.

Damping treatment performance as a function of active constraining layer segmentation and constraining layer thickness. The focus of ARTIMA is dealing with vibration damping and health monitoring through smart, active materials.
Damping treatment performance as a function of active constraining layer segmentation and constraining layer thickness. The focus of ARTIMA is dealing with vibration damping and health monitoring through smart, active materials.

Description of the work

ARTIMA’s objectives will be achieved through the collaborative effort of eleven organisations from seven countries. Smart materials, such as piezoplates, and Magnetic Shape Memory Materials will drive the active systems in structural health monitoring and vibration damping applications that are to be developed. Optical (FBG) sensor systems will be applied for passive load monitoring and damage detection. These systems will be tested in a realistic environment on a portion of the rear fuselage of a commuter aircraft and in another airframe part, most likely an elevon.

The extra benefit of this project, which will contribute to both damage detection and vibration control, will be the development of a new icing detection system. Icing may be considered as ‘reversible damage’. It does do damage, but it mainly affects the less tangible factors, such as aerodynamic qualities. The resulting deterioration may create excessive vibration levels and lead to a total hull loss.

The project will begin by specifying the parameters of specimens to be tested. This work will be organised as Work Package 1. Work Package 2 will cover the analytical studies intended to better define the characteristics of systems to be tested, and to develop the necessary models and algorithms. The work done in this Work Package will help in making important decisions regarding the analytical tools used in the following portions of the project. Work Package 3 is where the small-scale specimens will be designed and fabricated. These specimens will be used to evaluate practical issues associated with implementing the selected systems, and to validate the models and algorithms developed in the course of Work Package 2. Large-scale specimens will be designed and fabricated, as part of Work Package 4. The lessons learned in the course of Work Package 3 will be extensively applied in the process of the large specimen fabrication. All the specimens fabricated previously will be tested as part of Work Package 5. Results of these experiments will be analysed as part of Work Package 6. These results and the experience acquired during the project will be a basis for making design recommendations, a part of Work Package 7. A smooth flow of work will be assured and the inevitable problems will be solved as part of Work Package 8.

Expected results

The project will:

1. develop a real-time structural health monitoring system for real aircraft parts with acceptable reliability (low rate of false alarms and missed defects)

2. develop a practical, robust Active Constrained Layer Damping treatment for aircraft

3. develop a rotor blade icing detector capable of measuring ice thickness on the rotor blade, and the ice distribution and accumulation rate. PZT -based systems will be tested

4. investigate the feasibility of applying encapsulated PZT actuators and Magnetic Shape Memory Actuators for wing vibration control.