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Developing Innovative Smart Sensors for Automatic Aircraft Monitoring

A*STAR is developing next generation direct-write (DW) ultrasonic sensors for aircrafts which offer enhanced capabilities like automatic structural health monitoring and efficient preventive maintenance. 

The project involves researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Institute of Microelectronics (IME), and National Metrology Centre (NMC).

The team from IMRE is developing new light and compact DW ultrasonic sensors which are able to offer real-time monitoring capabilities, highly-consistent performance, as well as space and cost savings. Working together with IMRE to realise structural health monitoring functionalities with the DW sensors, IHPC conducted ultrasonic modelling and simulation, IME developed the electronic systems, and NMC provided metrology expertise for sensor performance evaluation and test protocols to be industry-recognised.

A network of these DW ultrasonic sensors can be built directly on the aircraft’s structural parts as a coating using in-situ deposition and patterning method. They can generate and detect acoustic waves in an aircraft’s structure and transfer the signals into useful data that shows the aircraft’s structural integrity. By automatically monitoring the aircraft’s operational and structural conditions, preventive maintenance can be done in a more efficient and accurate manner compared to scheduled inspections, where monitoring is done at set intervals without accounting for the actual condition of the aircraft.

The use of DW sensor technology marks a promising step towards implementing a scalable sensor network with improved reliability for automated structural health monitoring. Created using technology patented by A*STAR, the sensors have undergone environmental testing, with plans for further collaboration with industry partners to explore applications in the aviation industry.