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Innovative Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) System Capable of Detecting, Localizing, and Characterizing Damage in Composite Aircraft Structures


OBJECTIVE: Develop an innovative structural health monitoring (SHM) system capable of detecting damage in composite aircraft structures. The system must be able to successfully detect damage events, localize where the damage occurred, and characterize the type of damage in critical components of the aircraft structure that if left undetected might lead to loss of the aircraft and crew. DESCRIPTION: Advanced composite materials are becoming more commonly used in modern aircraft structural components to reduce the overall weight, fuel expenditures and life cycle cost of the aircraft. Despite their high strength and flexibility in design, composite materials are susceptible to damage. The main sources of damage are fatigue and direct impact, causing cracking, crushing, or delamination of the composite material. The ability to detect anomalies or damage in composite aircraft structures could significantly reduce the amount of inspection and testing required, resulting in greater aircraft availability and higher readiness rates. The aim of this program is to develop a structural health monitoring system capable of detecting, locating, and characterizing damage in composite aircraft structural components. The SHM system should have a math/physics based model that is the basis for characterizing damage and be capable of characterizing as many types of damage as possible. A potential system's sensors must be capable of operating in typically harsh aviation environments including wide temperature and humidity variation as well as high vibration. Proposed systems must minimize the number of sensors used while maintaining the ability to monitor globally and detect damage locally. Ideal systems will utilize wireless sensors and technology. PHASE I: Develop a SHM system concept that detects, localizes, and characterizes damage on composite aircraft structures. Demonstrate damage detection, localization, and characterization capability on a composite aircraft structure. PHASE II: Develop a prototype SHM system capable of deployment for damage detection on an actual aircraft structure subjected to representative loading and environmental conditions. Demonstrate prototype system under representative loading and environmental conditions (operational cyclic loading, humidity and thermal gradients, etc.). PHASE III: Integrate developed SHM system with end user systems and interfaces. Conduct final experimental testing on actual NAVAIR assets. Transition damage detection of composite aircraft structures into both damage prognosis and damage mitigation. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: A number of other applications and industries would benefit from a composite SHM system. The system could potentially benefit any Navy application where composite structures are subjected to harsh environments where the risk of damage is high. Commercial aviation could also benefit from a successfully developed composite SHM system as commercial aviation is using composites more frequently.
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