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Real Time Gas Turbine Engine Particulate Ingestion Sensor for Particle Size and Composition



TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, Sensors


OBJECTIVE: Develop an innovative aircraft/engine sensor or sensor system that is capable of determining the composition (with respect to Calcium, Magnesium, Aluminum, and Silicon (CMAS) compounds and other reactive media) as well as characterize the size and concentration of ingested sand and dust particulate.

DESCRIPTION: Modern military and commercial gas turbine engines are subject to increased durability, performance, and safety issues when operating in austere environments where significant quantities of sand, volcanic ash and dust are present and can be ingested into the engines. These environments include desert regions as well as previously active/currently active volcanic areas. Military studies of turbine engine sand, dust, and ash ingestion have shown that certain constituents, typically those containing CMAS compound minerals and/or Chlorides and Sulfates, are particularly detrimental to engine turbine components. These compound minerals, known as ‘reactive media’, have one or more physical or chemical characteristics including but not limited to size, mass, mineralogy and chemical composition that drive the phase of the media to change, from solid to semi-solid (partially molten) or liquid (molten), as they pass through the combustion section of the engine allowing them to adhere to various turbine components including but not limited to stator vanes, rotor blades and shrouds. Reactive media has been found to have significant and rapid detrimental effects on engine performance, durability and operability. Currently, there are no aircraft/engine sensors that can provide the information needed to understand the specific composition, size and concentration of ingested reactive material, which is a key factor in determining if reactive media is being ingested into the engine.

The sensor system developed should implement a technique for detecting, recording, and outputting the debris properties so the information can be leveraged by the existing engine FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) and/or aircraft mission computers in near real-time. This will allow for crew notification and the employment of advanced self-protection techniques.

Coordination with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is strongly recommended, but not required. A strong coordination with selected-engine OEM and/or multiple designated second-party partners, especially relating to the signal data bus transmission scheme, data acquisition and processing approach and specific assemble interface to the aircraft/engine would ensure the relevance of proposed methods to modern gas turbine engines and rotorcraft.

Sensor system should detect the size, concentration and presence of, at a minimum, the following materials:


• Calcium


• Magnesium


• Aluminum


• Silicon


• Chlorides


• Sulfates

Integration Requirements:


• The sensor system should be designed to integrate with multiple engines/aircraft with minor modifications. Possible locations include, but are not limited to: aircraft inlet, engine inlet, engine bypass, engine gas path.


• The sensor system should be designed to interface with an engine FADEC and/or aircraft mission computers (or equivalent commercial systems) using existing communication technology.


• The sensor system should not adversely affect airflow into or inside the engine.

Validation Requirements:


• Sensor system functionality will be validated upon successful Phase II effort, using a T700-GE-401C Turboshaft engine on an uninstalled test cell. The media for the validation will be baseline commercially available specification sands and AFRL-03 sand.

PHASE I: Design and demonstrate the feasibility of a sensor system to determine airborne debris size distribution, concentration and composition. Provide technical details on how the sensor system will capture, analyze and communicate its findings to the aircraft systems. A prototype sensor system may be demonstrated in bench tests if feasible.

PHASE II: Produce a detailed design(s) and prototype the assembly. Perform bench level testing on the sensor system to demonstrate effectiveness. Document all technical hardware and software specifications for the system in the Phase II final report.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize sensor system integration with major DoD end users and engine manufacturers and demonstrate the developed sensor system in a relevant engine/aircraft environment. Support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use. Private Sector Commercial Potential: Sand, dust, and ash ingestion is an emerging issue for commercial jet aircraft. One example includes the 2010 Iceland volcanic eruption, which resulted in closure of the airspace of much of northern Europe as a result of the detrimental effect of volcanic ash on commercial airliner engines. Commercial aviation is also subjected to dust/sand ingestion while operating in desert locations. It is expected that the hardware (and software) developed under this solicitation would have direct application for the detection of volcanic dust into commercial airline engines. The technology could provide crew indications to mitigate reactive debris ingestion, thus limiting the damage and repairs that are incurred.


  • Lekki, J., Lyall, E., Guffanti, M., Fisher, J., Erlund, B., Clarkson, R, & van de Wall, A. (2013). Multi-Partner Experiment to Test Volcanic-Ash Ingestion by a Jet Engine.
  • MIL-STD-810G. Department of Defense Test Method Standard, Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests. 31-October-2008
  • Air Force Research Lab, 03 Test Dust.
  • Whitaker, S., Bons, J. & Prenter, R. (2014). DRAFT: THE EFFECT OF FREE-STREAM TURBULENCE ON DEPOSITION FOR. Proceedings of ASME Turbo Expo 2014: Turbine Technical Conference and Exposition GT2014-27168
  • Bons, J., Prenter, R. and Ameri, A. (2015). DRAFT: DEPOSITION ON A COOLED NOZZLE GUIDE VANE WITH NON-UNIFORM. Proceedings of ASME Turbo Expo 2015: Turbine Technical Conference and Exposition GT2015-43583.
  • Bonilla, C., Webb, J., & Clum, C. (2012). The Effect of Particle Size and Film Cooling on Nozzle Guide Vane Deposition. Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power.

KEYWORDS: CMAS; Gas Turbine Engines; particle separation; Sand dust and ash ingestion; optical and laser sensors; Reactive Media

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