Langley Research Center has developed electrical- impedance- based icethickness gauges and is seeking partners and collaborators to commercialize them. When used as parts of active monitoring and diagnostic systems, these gauges make it possible to begin deicing or to take other protective measures before ice accretes to dangerous levels. These gauges are inexpensive, small, and simple to produce. They can be adapted to use on a variety of stationary and moving structures that are subject to accumulation of ice. Examples of such structures include aircraft, cars, trucks, ships, buildings, towers, power lines (see figure), power-generating equipment, water pipes, freezer compartments, and cooling coils.

Ice Accumulating on Power Lines poses a hazard.Gauges like those described in the text canprovide early warnings of the buildup of ice.
A gauge of this type includes a temperature sensor and two or more pairs of electrically insulated conductors embedded in a surface on which ice could accumulate. The electrical impedances of the pairs of conductors vary with the thickness of any ice that may be present. Somewhat more specifically, when the pairs of conductors are spaced appropriately, the ratio between their impedances is indicative of the thickness of the ice. Therefore, the gauge includes embedded electronic circuits that measure the electrical impedances, plus circuits that process the combination of temperature and impedance measurements to determine whether ice is present and, if so, how thick it is. Of course, in the processing of the impedance measurements, the temperature measurements help the circuitry to distinguish between liquid water and ice.

The basic design of a gauge of this type can be adapted to local conditions. For example, if there is a need to monitor ice over a wide range of thickness, then the gauge can include more than two sets of conductors having various spacings.

This work was done by Leonard Weinstein of Langley Research Center.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2003 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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