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Magnetoelastic Energy Systems for Even More Electric Aircraft


This technology-orientated research programme builds upon the success of previous EU projects devoted to accomplishing the objectives of the aeronautics priority through designing and testing ‘innovative transducer systems based on active materials’. The objectives came from a spontaneous evolution of the research activities developed by the two consortia related to the European research programmes named MADAViC (Magnetostrictive Actuators for Damage Analysis and Vibrations Control) and MESA (Magnetostrictive Equipment and Systems for More Electric Aircraft).

Project objectives

The objectives mainly consist of the design and development of systems integrating vibration transducers based on active components. The main targets are represented by the design and development of five systems aimed at 1) reducing the level of disturbance noise in turbofan aircraft, and 2) in helicopters, 3) examining the health status of aircraft structural components, 4) replacing the helicopter rotor blade pitch angle actuation systems and 5) transforming mechanical energy related to vibration fields within an aircraft into electric energy. These five objectives have a common aspect that suggested their integration within this project: they all require the design and development of a dedicated actuation system (including control algorithms and driving electronics) providing dynamic displacement and force fields on a host structure. Four fixed and rotary-wing aircraft companies accompanied by SMEs and university research institutes will take part in and benefit from the development of primarily magnetoelastic transducers for high-torque actuation, vibration and noise reduction, electrical energy generation and structural health monitoring.

Description of the work

The work plan is divided into seven Work Packages, the first of which focuses on the research aspect of magnetoelastic materials and related technology. This Work Package feeds all of the technical development Work Packages (numbers 2-5) with information regarding materials but also keeps the consortium abreast of the state-of-the-art in the area of smart materials and structures. Moreover, Work Package 1 also supplies Work Packages 2 and 4 with the hardware development results – the hysteresis compensation module – for use in the two Noise and Vibration Control (NVC) applications. Work Package 2 is concerned with NVC and contains two development activities, one for improving the cabin environment in turbofan aircraft by reducing noise levels through the application of magnetostrictive devices on the structural members, and the second one involving the development of smart force generators for combating vibrations in helicopter cockpits. Work Package 3 is a relatively small-scale activity in the development of health monitoring (HM) algorithms for aeronautical systems incorporating active devices. This work represents an added value on two levels: firstly, the investigation approach involves the use of existing NVC devices for investigating structural integrity; secondly, and as a direct consequence of the first level implications, the actuators and electronics integrated in the large-scale mock-up of Work Package 2 can be implemented for the HM activities with little cost regarding additional hardware. Work Package 4 involves the development of a high-torque actuation solution for root control of helicopter rotor blades – a big challenge, demanding and promising innovative solutions. This actuation approach can solve the problem of Individual Blade Control (IBC), which is a proven method of reducing helicopter vibrations but also improving fuel efficiency. Work Package 5 focuses on the latest innovation, the generation of electricity from the energy in vibrating structures. By their nature, such ‘Vibel’ devices will also dampen vibrations and therefore allow a fruitful interaction between Work Packages 5 and 2. Finally, the last two Work Packages (6 and 7) serve to coordinate the exploitation activities, and to manage the overall Project from an administrative and technical point of view.

Expected results

The consortium expects to design and produce one or more working systems for each of the five selected applications. For noise/vibration control and health monitoring applications, a full-scale working system is expected to be tested on a laboratory test article (fuselage mock-up). As far as helicopter blade control is concerned, one or more proofs of concept will be developed. Finally, many VIBEL prototypes will be produced in order to investigate aspects of transduction of mechanical into electrical energy employing active materials, including storage of this energy.

Active magnetostrictive valve to be implemented within the high torque actuation system for helicopters application
Active magnetostrictive valve to be implemented within the high torque actuation system for helicopters application