Northern Ireland news

Queen's University Belfast researchers help stop ice build-up on planes

Experts from Queen's have created a new system to prevent ice building up on aircraft

RESEARCHERS have created a new system to prevent ice building up on aircraft.

A team of experts from Queen's University Belfast has developed an ultra-light weight heater.

When aeroplanes travels through clouds in cold weather, layers of ice can form on the wings, propellers or jets.

This can increase drag and reduce lift, which may lead to loss of control. Several fatal aircraft accidents have been attributed to the build-up of ice over wing surfaces.

The conventional anti-icing system is based on hot air which is 'bled' from engines and piped to the inner surface of the wing. Heat is then transferred to the outer surface by thermal conduction, which stops ice from building.

This system adds weight and maintenance requirements, and is not energy efficient, particularly on the new generation of composite aircraft.

The team from Queen's has developed a more efficient alternative – an ultra-light weight heater, based on 'webs' made from carbon nanotubes (CNT).

Professor Brian Falzon, from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, led the research.

"When we carried out testing, we discovered that the newly developed CNT heaters achieved rapid heating which shows that the CNT heaters could quickly de-ice aircraft and provide effective ice protection in flight," he said.

Dr Xudan Yao, a PhD student from China, worked on the project.

"It has been fascinating to be involved in this project. We have managed as a team to come up with a light-weight and efficient alternative, which could mean that aircraft can now be protected from ice more effectively," she said.

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