Researchers successfully replicate ice crystal icing formation in aircraft engine

February 20, 2013
Assembly of ice crystal formation test in Propulsion Systems Laboratory at NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio. Credit: NASA

For the first time ever, researchers are demonstrating ice crystal icing formation in a full scale engine test facility this month at NASA's Glenn Research Center.

The tests duplicate the natural events of , ingestion by an aircraft engine of ice crystals created by the cloud and the reduction of engine power that can result. This phenomenon is being studied to gain an understanding of the physics behind ice in a .

Aircraft today routinely fly around or through areas of deep convection that appear innocuous to pilots, but have at times caused air data system instrument failures, engine power loss and engine damage due to ingestion into the engine. The impact of these events can range from an instrument anomaly, with no impact on the flight, to multi-engine flameout with subsequent restart.

Honeywell Aerospace, of Phoenix, Ariz., provided the engine that served as the test article, and support staff for the tests. "The Honeywell engine we're using for these tests experienced a similar event in the field. Information provided regarding the test engine's field event investigation and resolution is invaluable to the success of these tests," said Mike Olive, lead research engineer at Glenn for the tests.

These one-of-a-kind tests are continuing on a daily basis and will be completed by March 1.

According to Ron Colantonio, Safety Technologies Project Manager at Glenn, "With these tests, NASA is one step closer in accomplishing its goals by recreating a simulated ice crystal environment that has been known to create engine and instrument anomalies during flight in these . This capability will increase our understanding of how ice accretes inside an engine and how it affects engine performance and aircraft operability."

No other engine test facility has this capability and the first engine test of this phenomenon is taking place now at Glenn's Propulsion Systems Laboratory.

Glenn is working with industry to address this aviation issue by establishing a capability that will allow engines to be operated at the same temperature and pressure conditions experienced in flight, with ice particles being ingested into full scale engines to simulate flight through a deep convective cloud.

The information gained through performing these tests will also be used to establish methods and techniques for the study of engine icing in new and existing commercial engines, and to develop validation data sets required for advanced computer codes that can be specifically applied to assess an 's susceptibility to icing in terms of its safety, performance and operability.

The tests are supported by NASA's Aviation Safety Program in the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

Explore further: Image: Engine test with a cyclonic twist

More information: For more information about aeronautics research at NASA, visit:
www.aeronautics.nasa.gov

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