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Iron bird with the lightest touch

A non-contact torque transducer is helping British Aerospace Systems stay on schedule for delivery of the new Nimrod aircraft to the MoD. The first Nimrod MRA4 made its maiden flight late last year and the project is now moving into a pre-delivery phase, during which its Iron Bird test rig will be used virtually around the clock to prove the designs of many of the critical subsystems of the aircraft. Test data is gathered by a variety of sensors, which have to have as little effect on the system under test as possible. This proved to be a key advantage of the Torqsense transducer, developed by Sensor Technology, which uses a radio frequency (RF) link to constantly monitor the torque in a shaft under test. Torqsense, being non-contact, causes no drag whatsoever, so there is not even a need to allow for a constant offset when analysing data from the Iron Bird. Torqsense is used in conjunction with two tiny ceramic piezoelectric combs glued onto the surface of the shaft under test. As the torque increases, the combs open up, changing their electrical resistance proportionally to the change in frequency of the Surface Acoustic Waves (SAWs) caused by the rotating shaft. In effect the combs are frequency dependent strain gauges that measure changes in resonant frequency of the test shaft as the test program is run. A wireless radio frequency coupling is used to transfer the data signal to a pick-up head.

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