NASA SBIR 2010 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 10-1 A2.09-9697
PROPOSAL TITLE: Inexpensive reliable oil-debris optical sensor for rotorcraft health monitoring

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Translume, Inc.
655 Phoenix Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108 - 2201
(734) 528-6371

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Thomas Haddock
655 Phoenix Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108 - 2201
(734) 528-6135

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Rotorcrafts form a unique subset of air vehicles in that a rotorcraft's propulsion system is used not only for propulsion, but it also serves as the primary source of lift and maneuvering of the vehicle. No other air vehicle relies on the propulsion system to provide these functions through a transmission system employing a single critical load path without duplication or redundancy. Thus it is critically important to monitor the drivetrain components in rotorcraft propulsion systems in order to detect the onset of damage or abnormal conditions.
We propose to develop an analyzer for rotorcraft health monitoring. Our proposed device, an oil debris monitor that relies on optical means to monitor the fluid content, will provide a means to monitor the gear and bearing wear that is common in rotating machinery. This device will be based on fluid analyzers previously developed for industry. Our sensor will provide a means to detect the onset of failure using optical techniques. It will be more sensitive than electromagnetic sensors. In addition it will be able to detect all debris, metallic and non-metallic, including those generated by hybrid ceramic bearings, and will be able to do this even in the presence of air bubbles. Unlike other optical sensors, our device will be fabricated from a glass monolith and will, by its very nature, stay aligned forever, even when submitted to severe vibrations and shocks. Within the glass monolith our sensor will integrate the equivalent of two optical instruments, one optimized for large millimeter-size debris and one for smaller micron-size debris. Algorithms will be developed to merge the data provided by the two optical channels and to present a simple cohesive health assessment.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Studies indicate that failure of the propulsion system is the primary reason for vehicle-factor related accidents. In order to reduce these accidents a number of diagnostic techniques have been developed to detect damage and abnormal conditions of the dynamic mechanical components of rotorcrafts. A majority of this technology focuses on monitoring the gears, bearings and driveshafts of the main transmission system. Oil debris sensors can be used to detect and characterize bearing debris in oil and allow for tracking of bearing health. While commercially available electromagnetic sensors can detect metallic debris, they often cannot detect the non-metallic debris associated with components such as the hybrid ceramic bearings now found in rotorcrafts. Further they have severe limitations as to the size of the debris they can detect. Optical sensors have high sensitivity, and detect non-metallic debris, including ceramic, but they rapidly lose alignment when subjected to shocks and vibrations; they are delicate, require frequent recalibration and are expensive.
Our proposed optical oil sensor will be fabricated from a single glass monolith and will never lose its optical alignment. It will have a capability to detect small and large debris, including metallic and non-metallic debris, using an optical sensing modality. Further its will be inexpensive. These claims are based on previous experience developing various fluid sensors, including hydraulic sensors for heavy machinery.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Oil debris sensors are used to detect bearing debris in oil and allow for tracking of bearing health. These devices allow for maintenance procedures based on condition, a preferable and less expensive approach to the traditional schedule based approach.
We are proposing to fabricate and commercialize a small, extremely robust and inexpensive fluid debris optical monitor with both a particle sizing and counting capability. Our advanced debris monitor will support improved aircraft safety and allow scheduling of oil samples based on indicated need instead of at predetermined time and usage points. This will not only significantly reduce maintenance burden, but will flag failures as they begin to develop. This will permit remediation as needed to reduce unexpected and expensive downtime. There are numerous applications for this type of analyzer in industry and the transportation sector. These markets are much larger than the rotorcraft market.
In order to penetrate these markets the fluid analyzer needs to be reliable, inexpensive, require no periodic calibration, and the data provided should be simple to understand. Present commercial offerings fail to meet all of these criteria. Translume analyzers will be inexpensive yet sensitive, and will never require realignment. This combination of factors is made possible by the development at Translume of novel glass microfabrication processes. Commercialization will be undertaken with commercial partners.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.)
Lasers (Machining/Materials Processing)
Optical/Photonic (see also Photonics)

Form Generated on 09-03-10 12:12