A new sensor can detect ice accumulation on airplane wings in real-time

Ice forming on an aircraft can be dangerous. If it forms on the wing or tailplane surfaces that it can destroy the lift, and hence it is the leading cause of aircraft crashes. Ice detection systems are generally based on visual detection and are, therefore, susceptible to human error and environmental conditions.

To address this, researchers have developed a new sensor that can detect ice accumulation in real-time and could be used to boost airline safety and efficiency. The sensor is the collaborative effort of the two research team from the University of British Columbia‘s Okanagan School of Engineering.

The device called a planar microwave resonator sensor could detect the precise moment when ice begins to form on a surface. It uses microwave resonators to instantly detect the formation of ice that may not be visible to pilots or ground crews.

The planar microwave sensors basically consist of metal deposited onto plastic, and yet they are mechanically robust, sensitive, and easy to fabricate.

In short, it works by measuring how the resonance frequency, amplitude, and scattering pattern of an emitted microwave are altered by any water, frost, or ice present on its surface. During the lab test, the resonator detected frost formation within seconds after the sensor was cooled below freezing.

On the contrary, the human observers took two minutes at -10 C for the frost to become visible on the resonator with the naked eye. That was one small area in ideal lab conditions, then of course spotting all of the ice on an entire wing in an outdoor setting would be considerably harder. Additionally, the resonator device is also able to detect when ice has reverted back to liquid water, so it could also be used to confirm that de-icing operations have worked successfully.

The team says in the recent demonstration, the Planar microwave resonator sensor shows significant performance in sensing, monitoring, and characterizing solid, liquid, and gaseous materials. Research on the detection of ice and frost has not been undertaken until now, according to the team, despite the clear benefits of real-time, sensitive, and robust ice detection for transportation and safety applications.

This is a brand-new method for detecting ice formation quickly and accurately,” says Assistant Professor Mohammad Zarifi. “Radiofrequency and microwave technology can even be made wireless and contactless. I wouldn’t be surprised if airlines start adopting technology even for this upcoming winter.

The researchers have recently published their research findings in Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical.

Also Read

Recent Articles

Turning plastic water bottles into affordable prosthetic limbs

Most currently available prosthetic limbs tend to be lacking in functionality or are unaffordable to many who need them. Alongside this need for prosthetic...

Langogo, AI-powered pocket translator that speaks 70 languages

Every outdoor adventure lover might have faced language barriers while traveling. At some point, we were unable to understand anything said to us in...

Mercedes-Benz revealed A-Class and B-Class plug-in hybrids for Europe

Like most other automakers, Mercedes-Benz is also on the mission to electrify its lineup of vehicles in the near future. Now it is adding...

The redesigned Ocean Cleanup device is ready to remove the ocean plastic

With each passing year, we expose the ocean to more pollutants, from trash to chemicals. This wide range of pollution endangers marine ecosystems. Fortunately,...

Aston Martin’s latest mid-engined sportscar has taken its first flight

On Friday, Aston Martin has given the world the first glimpse of its latest mid-engined Valhalla hypercar on the track alongside its sibling Aston...

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox

Related Stories