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The University of Southampton

Research project: Accretion removal using transient vibration

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Low power technologies for ice removal from aircraft have been sought for many years to reduce fuel burn and, in the case of smaller aircraft, also to improve system performance and reliability. Most proposed solutions have exploited either shock or high amplitude vibration to de-bond the ice but both present significant technical challenges. This project is developing a novel technique that can generate shock responses from vibration inputs by focussing waves at target positions on a structure.

A pulse-like broadband shock input to a structure results in a response at a remote position that is smeared over time due to the phenomenon of wave dispersion whereby different frequencies travel at different speeds. Whilst apparently disadvantageous for accretion removal, this phenomenon can actually be exploited by conversely selecting a dispersed input that invokes a pulse-like response elsewhere. By giving slower waves a ‘head start’ over faster waves all frequencies can be engineered to arrive at the same position simultaneously, thereby creating a shock. The focal point can be adjusted in real time by modifying the shape of the chirp-like input waveform given some prior knowledge of the structure’s behaviour.

The technique has been developed and evaluated for a simple beam and is currently being generalised for complex structures such as wing surfaces.

The project has been funded at various stages by Ultra Electronics, the National Aerospace Technology Enhancement Programme (NATEP) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).


Visual representation of flexural waves
Example of ‘chirp’ input for focussing flexural waves

Movie of low energy (2 Joules) accretion removal from an anechoic aluminium beam

Movie simulation of wave focussing in a beam



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