Nonlinear observers were originally developed based on the ideas of variable structure control, and for the purpose of detecting disturbances in complex systems. In this anomaly detection application, these observers were designed for estimating the distributed state of fluid flow in a pipe described by a class of advection equations.

The observer algorithm uses collected data in a piping system to estimate the distributed system state (pressure and velocity along a pipe containing liquid gas propellant flow) using only boundary measurements. These estimates are then used to further estimate and localize possible anomalies such as leaks or foreign objects, and instrumentation metering problems such as incorrect flow meter orifice plate size.

The observer algorithm has the following parts: a mathematical model of the fluid flow, observer control algorithm, and an anomaly identification algorithm. The main functional operation of the algorithm is in creating the sliding mode in the observer system implemented as software. Once the sliding mode starts in the system, the equivalent value of the discontinuous function in sliding mode can be obtained by filtering out the high-frequency chattering component. In control theory, “observers” are dynamic algorithms for the online estimation of the current state of a dynamic system by measurements of an output of the system. Classical linear observers can provide optimal estimates of a system state in case of uncertainty modeled by white noise. For nonlinear cases, the theory of nonlinear observers has been developed and its success is mainly due to the sliding mode approach.

Using the mathematical theory of variable structure systems with sliding modes, the observer algorithm is designed in such a way that it steers the output of the model to the output of the system obtained via a variety of sensors, in spite of possible mismatches between the assumed model and actual system. The unique properties of sliding mode control allow not only control of the model internal states to the states of the real-life system, but also identification of the disturbance or anomaly that may occur.

This work was done by Wanda M. Solano of Stennis Space Center and Sergey V. Drakunov of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. For more information, call the Innovative Partnerships Office at 228-688- 1929. SSC-00369

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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