EADS opens dedicated cryogenic windtunnel for anti-icing studies

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EADS Innovation Works is centralising its battle against icing with the opening of a compact, cryogenic windtunnel and associated laboratory facilities.

The new iCORE - icing and contamination research - facility at IW's Ottobrun headquarters near Munich is capable of creating icing conditions normally only achievable in much larger tunnels. This is because conventional tunnels need a relatively long distance to cool water droplets between their deployment by a spray bar and arrival at a test surface.

The smaller, dedicated tunnel will have lower operating costs and greater availability than a conventional facility, thus offering more testing opportunities, EADS chief technical officer Jean Botti said.

Intially, IW will use iCORE to investigate multi-phase flow, phase change and splash behaviour of droplets, as well as the crystallisation process of supercooled droplets. The objective is to find ways to minimise or prevent in-flight ice build-up and reduce the energy demands of anti-icing systems.

Supercooled water droplets - which are colder than water's normal freezing point because they have no impurities around which ice crystals form - are common in clouds, but aircraft passing through them can provide such contamination, resulting in the rapid formation of ice crystals.

Botti said IW is particularly interested in tailored surfaces and coatings designed to work with the new generation of on board de-icing systems, which are currently being developed for aircraft ranging from airliners and helicopters to military unmanned aerial systems.

Another key avenue of research will be laminar flow technology, and how surface turbulence can be influenced by so-called "insect contamination" - that is, bugs stuck to the wings.

According to Botti, insect contamination has no influence on flight efficiency currently, but minor turbulence caused by insect debris may undermine efforts to cut fuel consumption by designing aircraft for turbulence-free airflow.

A co-operative agreement with Mississippi State University will also allow IW to use the computational fluid dynamics capabilities at its Department of Aerospace Engineering and Center for Advanced Vehicle Design, to model the impact of supercooled droplets on aerodynamic surfaces in airflow.

Data from iCORE windtunnel tests will also be included in an EADS IW-led, European Union-funded project, AEROMUCO - aerodynamic surfaces by advanced multifunctional coatings.

The programme aims to creating ice-resistant coatings which can be further studied in larger windtunnels and, eventually, on an aircraft testbed from France's Istres Flight Test Centre.