NASA Will Use Cereal and Crayons to Test Jet Engine Sensors
Water forms a cyclonic twist as it is intentionally sucked into the test engine of a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft during the VIPR project (NASA/Tony Landis)
NASA engineers will feed cereal and crayons into jet engines in a test of new aircraft engine health monitoring technology designed to provide early warning of engine problems, including the destructive effect of volcanic ash. NASA's Aviation Safety Program is developing technology for improved sensors to help spot changes in vibration, speed, temperature, and emissions that are symptomatic of engine glitches.
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California will let jet engines suck up crayons and cereal in an upcoming experiment with a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo transport. The cereal and crayons will leave a colorful trail of grains and wax that the researchers can see and study to gauge how well the sensors work.
The test, in early 2013, will use cereal and crayons to verify that the sensors can detect tiny bits of debris. After that, engineers will conduct a test with very hard, glass-like particles that mimic volcanic ash. Because it is difficult and risky to create problems intentionally on a jet engine in flight, the aircraft will remain on the ground for both tests.
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