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Low-cost, Reliable, and Long-life Components for the Next-Generation Aerospace Controls



OBJECTIVE: Insertion of advanced commercial controls technologies into turbine engine controls in order to reduce development and acquisition costs. Customize advanced sensing and control COTS hardware and software components in high temperature/vibration.

DESCRIPTION: Current turbine engines are controlled by Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) systems typically centralized computing resources. Sensors that sense the controlled variables are typically individually wired to the FADEC, resulting in heavy, cumbersome wiring harnesses.

To remedy this situation, distributed nodes can be employed along with lighter fiber-optic data busses and sensor systems. The current state-of-the-art (SOA) for electrical/optical transceivers limits their qualification to a maximum operating environment of 85 degrees C. SOA opto-electronic devices are often fabricated using gallium arsenide (GaAs) materials due to their superior capability in high frequency operation as well as optical emitters/detector capability. However, their thermal conductivity is significantly reduced compared with silicon electronics, limiting reliability and temperature capability beyond 85 degrees C applications. Present limitations to electrical/optical transceiver temperature scaling must be investigated. Illustrate and demonstrate a path that would enable creating a high temperature electro-optical transceiver The typical minimum operating rage for introduction into a FADEC requires an operating range of -55 to 125 degrees C. Ideally, a sensor capable of a wider operating range would be desirable as the move to mount electronics on the core of the engine becomes a feature discriminator. This transceiver should inherently support the wide operating temperature range, as additional cooling methods degrade power efficiency and reliability. Work with a FADEC designer to concur on overall part requirements.

Implementation of intelligent propulsion concepts requires advanced enabling components technologies (including optical and electronic hardware as well as software packages) such as smart sensors, communications protocols, networking and associated components needed to increase capability in next-generation propulsion systems. To keep costs under control, it is desirable to employ standardized commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components as much as possible. However, many advanced COTS components were designed for ground-based applications and do not meet, in their present form, the requirements of airborne gas turbine engine propulsion systems.

Appropriate modifications to key COTS components are sought that would make them flight-worthy in engine propulsion environments. Evolving COTS components that make use of silicon carbide (SC) and Galium Nitride (GaN) materials for environmental performance capability of opto-electronics devices is a potential approach to improve the SOA. Solid-state electronic cooling methodologies and circuit design applied to silicon- or GaAs-based COTS components are potential lower cost solutions to improve the SOA using COTS technology. Investigation of very small lightweight vapor cycle technology for electronics may be appropriate. Integration of the electronic components to take advantage of existing fuel component design is a potential method for advancing the capability of COTS for the harsh environment. Modifications may incorporate energy, weight and size saving features, hardening against electromagnetic interference (EMI) and vibration and lifetime extension of components currently used in the older legacy assets. For active components, it is especially desirable to take advantage of innovative energy consumption reduction and/or energy harvesting approaches. It is critical to consider packaging and interface constraints, including data security, as well as ruggedization and standard requirements for avionics applications. Both legacy (centralized control) and next-generation (distributed control) engine systems can benefit from life-extended COTS and modified COTS components.

This research and development program would provide practical and cost-effective solutions, specifically addressing deficiencies in current engine sensing and control component technologies, as well as networking challenges that confront modified COTS component integration into fiber-optic backbone for existing aircraft. Robust standardized COTS-based components technologies are sought capable of operating in demanding avionics environments. Critical attributes include high reliability, high performance, long life, and lower maintenance cost for extreme temperatures and vibration environments.

For sensors used in turbine engines, it is desirable to extend the operating capability to temperatures beyond 1,200 degrees F and vibrations tolerance in excess of 500g RMS.

PHASE I: Identify advanced optical & electronic COTS components that will enhance engine operation for modernized propulsion systems. Investigate the desired modifications using COTS components & develop a conceptual approach for achieving environmental capability. Demonstrate the increased performance using a modeling and simulation as well as laboratory testing of relevant optical & electronic devices.

PHASE II: Design and demonstrate a harsh environment opto-electronic data bus transceiver with a relevant package size for an engine smart module or FADEC application. Demonstrate the improved capability of the COTS-based component and demonstrate its effectiveness on test stand engines in collaboration with an engine or airframe original equipment manufacturer (OEM).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Transition into commercial and military applications.


    • Sample of Current State of the Art Optical Transceivers, Avago Technologies,


    • Panel Session on "Transition in Gas Turbine Engine Control System Architecture: Modular, Distributed, Embedded," 45th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, 2-5 Aug 2009, Denver, CO


    • "Status, Vision, and Challenges of an Intelligent Distributed Engine Control Architecture," SAE 2007 AeroTech Congress & Exhibition, 17-20 Sep 2007, Los Angeles, CA, 2007-01-3859.


    • "Vision for Next Generation of Modular Adaptive Generic Integrated Controls (MAGIC) for Military/Commercial Turbine Engines," 43rd AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, 8-11 Jul 2007, Cincinnati, OH


    • Lewis, T.J., "Distributed Architectures for Advanced Engine Control Systems," AGARD/PEP 86th Symposium on Advanced Aero-Engine Concepts and Controls, 1995, Seattle WA.


  • Wick, D.G., "Realizing Distributed Engine Control Subsystems Through Application of High-Temperature Intelligent Engine Sensors and Control Electronics," SAE Technical Paper 2000-01-1363, 2000, doi:10.4271/2000-01-1363.

KEYWORDS: propulsion systems, jet engine, avionics COTS components, high temperature sensors, smart sensors and control, avionics data networking. optical, transceiver, small form factor pluggable, SFP, fiber optic, EO, electro-optical, high temperature, FADEC

  • TPOC-1: Alireza Behbahani
  • Phone: 937-255-5637
  • Email:
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