Researchers seek new ways to design heat-flux flight sensors

University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor Panos Shiakolas
University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor Panos Shiakolas is spearheading research to develop sensors that can withstand harsh conditions on hypersonic flights. (University of Texas at Arlington)

Harsh environmental conditions—such as surface temperatures reaching thousands of degrees Fahrenheit—make it challenging to accurately measure temperatures and heat flux on hypersonic flight systems.

A mechanical engineering associate professor at The University of Texas at Arlington, Panos Shiakolas, believes a new additive manufacturing technology can withstand harsh conditions on hypersonic flights and enable sensors to provide reliable measurements. With help from a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Department of Defense, Shiakolas is exploring ceramic and other non-metallic materials to fabricate novel advanced temperature and heat flux sensors.

Shiakolas is working with Luca Maddalena, a professor of aerospace engineering at UTA and an expert in hypersonic aerothermodynamics. Maddalena directs UTA's Aerodynamics Research Center and recently brought online a new arc-jet heated hypersonic wind tunnel that is the only one of its kind at a university in the United States.

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"We have been working to develop sensors, analyze the manufacturing process and identify the type of non-metallic materials that need to be used, as well as the capabilities and limitations of the platform," Shiakolas said in an article appearing on Eurekalert.org. "We're now at the stage where we can manufacture some of the features needed for the sensors, so we're taking the constraints from the process and incorporating them into the analysis so whatever the data tells us, we are confident that the performance of the fabricated sensor will be close to the predicted performance."

"Hypersonic research, such as the research being performed in our new wind tunnel, presents many challenges because of the extremely high temperatures involved in testing designs," said Erian Armanios, chair of UTA's Mechanical and Aerospace Department. "Being able to reliably design and manufacture sensors for use in this environment is very important to advancements in design, so this research is key to future successes in the field."

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