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ANALYSIS AND DESIGN OF AIRCRAFT

ELECTROSTATIC DISCHARGE

BY

BABATUNDE RASHEED YINKA


13/67AA/011

A PROJECT SUBMITTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF

AERONAUTICAL AND ASTRONAUTICAL ENGINEERING,

KWARA STATE UNIVERSITY, MALETE,

KWARA STATE.

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE

AWARD OF BACHELOR OF ENGINEERING (B.Eng) IN

AERONAUTIACS ND ASTRONAUTICS ENGINEERING

MARCH, 2018.
CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of study
Static Electricity is considered as an imbalance of electrons on a non-conductive or low conductive
material. Aircraft is charged in-flight mostly by three mechanisms that are triboelectric charging, engine
exhaust charging and exogenous charging (cross electric field). However, triboelectric charging is the most
considered phenomena and it consists of two relations. The first relation deals with the accumulation of
electrical charges created by static electricity under various flight conditions until sufficient voltage
levels are reached to initiate a discharge and this result to static noise. The second deals with building up
of electrical charges while flying in a precipitation condition and the aircrafts skin get charged cause of its
friction with the surrounding particles (water droplets, sand, and dust snow). Those charges generate
precipitation static phenomenon also called P-Static. Aircraft Precipitation static (Aircraft P-Static) is a
term used to describe interfering noise resulting from the redistribution of charge on an operating aircraft.
As an aircraft moves through the air, it acquires charge until sufficient voltage levels are reached to initiate
a discharge. The build-up static electricity does causes human injury from electrical shock and ignition of
flammable vapours and radio frequency interference via interfering with the communication and navigation
equipment by increasing the equipment ambient noise level and making reception difficult or impossible
thereby threatens the safety and security of the flight. The electric charge deposited on the aircraft surface,
leads to electrical discharges from the aircraft, which generate the electromagnetic noise responsible for P-
Static. These are corona discharges from aircraft extremities, surface discharges (streamers) that can take
place on insulating surfaces, and arc discharges (sparks) that take place in the gap between two metallic
parts electrically disconnected (bonding defect).

Static discharging system is use on aircrafts to remove the electro-static charge that collects on the
airplane surfaces. It works on the principal of creating a relative easy path for discharging the electric charge
that develop on the aircrafts. It has two main parts, the electrical bonding system and the surface static
discharging system.

The bonding system gives the airplane good lightning or sparking protection. Since electric charge
occurs between two points not in contact, resulting from a difference in electrical potential, it eliminates
the difference in electrical potential between two or more objects. An adequate bond between two or more
conductive objects allow charges to flow freely between objects, resulting in no difference in electrical
potential. Bonding does not eliminate the static charge, but will equalize the potential between the objects
bonded so that a spark will not occur between them. The main part of bonding system is lightning protection
system. It includes a network of air terminals, bonding conductors, and ground electrodes designed to
provide a low impedance path to ground for potential strikes. The lightning protection system has a
longitudinal branch that runs from aircraft nose to empennage and a lateral branch that runs from the left
wing to the right wing. It is also connected with the longitudinal branch at the cabin floor. Metal braiding
and strips connect all other conductive components (for example: wing skin, fuel tanks, control systems,
landing gear, engine, etc.) and antenna ground plates to the lightning conductor system.

The surface static discharging system helps to improve the dispersal of accumulated aircraft static
charges in an effort to reduce the resultant radio interference and eliminating electrical shocks rather than
waiting until a large charge is developed and discharged off the trailing edges of the aircraft. This process
offers various decibels (dB) levels of static noise reduction, which can be adapted to different situations to
eliminate interference in avionics equipment.

Surface static discharging system deals with the electrical connection of conducting object (static
dischargers or static wicks) to primary structure or earth electrode, for return of current. Location on the
airframe enables them to serve a role as a lightning conductor and provide protection against arcing for the
surrounding aircraft structure. The primary structures are the main frame, fuselage, and wing structure of
the aircraft (commonly referred to as ground).

Problem Statement
Aircrafts accumulate electrical charges created by static electricity and precipitation condition
under various flight conditions until sufficient voltage levels are reached to initiate a discharge. These
discharges thereby threatens the safety and security of the aircraft by resulting to radio frequency
interference, human injury from electrical shock and ignition of flammable vapours. Safety and security are
very important aviation facilities that can’t be compromised because lives of lots of people are put
at risk. Safety deals with condition, state or situation in which a person feel safe from danger and
harm while security deals with the procedure or action taken to ensure safety of a person. Therefore
attending to this building up of P-static discharge is of paramount importance.

A real life example of aircraft accident caused by static build up was that of Boeing 747-
100 that crashed on 17 July 1996, a commercial aircraft of the airline “TWA”, on the flight number
800, that operated from New York to Paris set on fire due to the explosion of the central fuel tank.
All 212 passengers and 18 crew members of the aircraft dead. There were several different theories
about the crash of this aircraft – from the terrorist attack, bomb onboard the aircraft, mechanical
malfunctioning of the aircraft, to the theory that the aircraft was shoot down with the missile by
mistake. Within the serious expert circles, static electricity and the spark arising in the fuel pump
was taken into consideration as the possible cause of the accident.

Justification of Study
The P-Static phenomenon created by the interaction of aircraft surface with its surrounding
necessitates the need to analyze and design a static discharging system in order to reduce the threat
it creates on aircrafts rather than waiting until a large charge is developed and discharged off the
trailing edges of the aircraft.

Aim
The aim of this project is to analyze the effect of P-static disturbances on aircraft and design a
static discharging system that mitigate the radio frequency interference.

Objectives
In light of the aforementioned aim, the objectives of this project are as follows:

1. Bounding the non-contacting points in order to equalize the potential difference.


2. Designing a static wick in an aircraft model.
3. Simulating the aircraft model in an environment that induces P-static disturbances with the
use of CADfix software integrated with electromagnetic application (EMA).
4. Comparing radio frequency interference on an aircraft model with and without static wick.

Scope of study
There are several effects of accumulated charges on aircrafts, this studies focuses on its effect on
radio frequency. Of all the three dischargers (corona, streamers and arc) used to mitigate P-static
disturbances on radio frequency, the scope of present study mainly concentrates on the use of
corona dischargers because streamers can be reduced by coating the nonconductive areas with high
resistance paint that allow charge to bled to the airframe while arcing can easily be control by
bounding the isolated metal with the aircraft structure using a grounding strap. But corona
discharge requires a compromise to be made on the aerodynamic design of the aircraft by
eliminating the sharp points because it occurs at the extremities such as wing tips, propeller tips,
antennas, horizontal and vertical stabilizers etc presence in the aircrafts. Therefore corona
discharge has to be properly studied and design.
Among the numerous design modeler software available, CADfix has been chosen for this
project because of it robustness, it acts as a design modeler and CAD software. ANSYS was
considered but was not utilized because it doesnot have good CAD tools compare to CADfix.
CADfix saves hours and days of effort by avoiding manually repairing or re-creating the geometry.
It removes barriers that prevent the reuse of solid models by providing an extensive set of geometry
manipulation tools. It also offers model de-featuring utilities (i.e. joining or collapsing of short
edges and small faces, removing fillets and rounds, removing holes, etc.). Also, from literature,
CADfix integrate with EMA3D proves to be beneficial for EMA (Electromagnetic Application)
and for aerospace customers. This integration provides aerospace customers a suite of validated
tools designed to enhance testing and to help them design safer and lower cost systems with a high
degree of confidence quickly and more accurately. For EMA, CADfix has always been the ideal
tool.
LITERATURE REVIEW

Charges (electrons) built up on aircrafts surface tends to be conducted to the tips after proper
bounding to equalize the potential of the non-contacting surfaces have been done. Corona is a
name given to the glow around the tip at high potential which helps to attract the static charge and
encourages the electrons to flow off the aircraft and back into the atmosphere. It is distinct from
other stages of conduction in that electron avalanche takes place, and the discharge is self-
sustaining, that is, no external ionization source such as cosmic radiation is necessary for its
continuance. At first, a neutral molecule or atom of the medium, in vicinity of strong electric field,
such as the high potential gradient near the point electrode, is decomposed by a natural
environmental event (for example, as due to photon interaction or cosmic ray), to produce charged
species, namely positive ions and free electrons. The applied electric field, which is incident on
these charged species, tends to separate them thus preventing their recombination and also
accelerates these charge species to high velocities, thereby imparting each of them with large
kinetic energy. The electrons, which are lighter particles and therefore have high mobility and thus
much higher charge/mass ratio are accelerated to a higher velocity. The electrons therefore acquire
large kinetic energies in the field. Further, free electron and positive-ion pairs are created by
collision of these high energetic moving electrons with neutral atoms if the conditions are
favorable. This results to electron multiplication, which then undergo the same cumulative process
creating electron avalanches. Electron avalanches is a process in which a number of free electrons
in a transmission medium are subjected to strong acceleration by an electric field and subsequently
collide with other atoms of the medium, thereby ionizing them (impact ionization). This releases
additional electrons which accelerate and collide with further atoms, releasing more electrons i.e.
a chain reaction.

Corona discharge generate noise which is coupled into aircraft receiving antennas, generating
interference in the communication and navigation systems. One of the first approaches to the
elimination of precipitation-static interference was directed at the elimination of aircraft charging.
It was known that all materials may be arranged in a triboelectric series such that, in general,
materials higher in the series tend to charge positively when brought into contact with materials
below them in the series. Since neighboring materials in the triboelectric series tend to charge
one another less than do widely separated materials, it was felt that, through a suitable choice
of paint, it might be possible to eliminate or at least minimize aircraft charging. Attempts along
these lines were completely unsuccessful since triboelectric charging is a surface phenomenon,
and a thin film of oil is sufficient to completely destroy any desirable properties that a coating
might have, Furthermore, since position in the triboelectric series tends to be a function of
dielectric constant, and since the dielectric constant of ice varies with temperature, it would be
very difficult to find a coating suitable for all weather conditions. However, it was found in
some laboratory experiments and flight tests that a high-resistance conductive coating over the
dielectric surface was effective in eliminating streamer noise to certain extent. The conductive
coating drains away the charge as rapidly as it arrives, and prevents the voltage build-up which
produces the streamer discharges.

Another approach to the problem was to devise methods for discharging the aircraft without
generating noise in the receiving systems. One proposed system was the block and squirter in
which a discharger is maintained at a high ac potential with respect to the aircraft. The receiving
circuits are blocked during the alternate half cycles during which discharges occur. Another system
is the biased discharger in which a discharge is forced to occur between a point and a
cylinder. Discharging occurs when ions of the same polarity as the point are carried away by
the airstream, while ions of the opposite charge are captured by the high fields of the point.
Other proposed systems include flame dischargers, electron gun discharge tubes, and direct
thermionic emitters.

Still another approach was to operate on the noise signal after it had been coupled into the receiving
antenna. A noise "blanker" inserted in the circuit between the antenna and receiver would short
out the receiver terminals as soon as a noise impulse appeared at the input to the blanker.
The receiver terminals would remain shorted for the duration of the noise impulse.

The magnitude and spectral distribution of this radio interference, called precipitation static,
depend upon three factors:

(1) The strength and spectral characteristics of the source discharges,

(2) The manner in which the disturbances produced by the discharges couple into the antennas,

(3) The magnitude of the discharge current and its distribution among the discharging extremities