WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers at Purdue University, working with the U.S. Air Force, have developed tiny wireless sensors resilient enough to survive the harsh conditions inside jet engines to detect when critical bearings are close to failing and prevent breakdowns.
The devices are an example of an emerging technology known as "micro electromechanical systems," or MEMS, which are machines that combine electronic and mechanical components on a microscopic scale.
"The MEMS technology is critical because it needs to be small enough that it doesn't interfere with the performance of the bearing itself," said Farshid Sadeghi, a professor of mechanical engineering. "And the other issue is that it needs to be able to withstand extreme heat."
The engine bearings must function amid temperatures of about 300 degrees Celsius, or 572 degrees Fahrenheit.
The researchers have shown that the new sensors can detect impending temperature-induced bearing failure significantly earlier than conventional sensors.
"This kind of advance warning is critical so that you can shut down the engine before it fails," said Dimitrios Peroulis, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Findings will be detailed in a research paper to be presented on Tuesday (Oct. 30) during the IEEE Sensors 2007 conference in Atlanta, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The paper was written by electrical and computer engineering graduate student Andrew Kovacs, Peroulis and Sadeghi.
The sensors could be in use in a few years in military aircraft such as fighter jets and helicopters. The technology also has potential applications in commercial products, including aircraft and cars.
"Anything that has an engine could benefit through MEMS sensors by keeping track of vital bearings," Peroulis said. "This is going to be the first time that a MEMS component will be made to work in such a
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