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fiber optic project (for university, help required)

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by cameron_john, Sep 15, 2011.

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  1. cameron_john


    Sep 15, 2011
    hello all,
    i have just started my second year of university, i am studying aircraft engineering and we have been tasked with a year long project that will ultimately play a large part in our final grade.

    the basic brief for the project is to come up with, or innovate upon any aspect of an aircraft (non-military) it will involve a 10,000 word report.

    i am looking at doing the project on the replacement of copper wires in aircraft with fiber optics.

    within the coarse so far we have only had the basic classes covering logic and basic theory. i have an external interest in electronics from a young age and have done several projects on my own, simple things like a headphone amp in a tin..but enough to involve getting a board and soldiering components in.

    now i am aware power transfer via fiber optics is not as efficient as copper, however as far as information transfer (radar, sensors as well as control surface commands) due to the bandwidth multiple signals could be transferred via a single lead (with a backup) hopefully saving weight. Cost is an issue, but as this is a project the time scale can extend to a point where the price of fiber optics would make it a viable alternative.

    The bit i need help with.

    i would like to make a simple mock up as part of my final demonstration, actually make a working fibre optic transfer system. i once saw a system where audio was transferred in a fairly simplistic looking system, with what looked like a pulsating led (probably a simple laser) something like that would be ideal (transfer of data, moving a servo would be the bee's knee's)

    first thing is first, getting the basic system working, but i would like to go as far as having a mock up control setup.

    budgets not huge on my part, but the uni says it will supply any parts it can get free of charge (but i assume i will need to purchase some of the more specialized stuff)

    so there we go, can anybody help me?

    this is my first post also, my name is John, and i look forward to hearing from you :)
  2. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    Jan 21, 2010
    Well, the first question you need to ask yourself is "What are the strengths and weaknesses of copper wires in this application?" and then "How can fibre optic perform better?"

    You might look at some recent aircraft incidents to try to determine what problems there are to be solved.

    You might, for instance, look at the turbine disc failure on the Qantas A380. Parts of the disc severed cables carrying control information to/from the engine. When those were severed, the engine was stuck at the last power setting and also could not be shut off.

    Would fibre optic have helped? If it results in a significant enough weight saving then maybe it would allow for a duplicated data path through some other part of the wing?

    Perhaps something else would be more beneficial? Maybe bluetooth? (although in practice you wouldn't use something so easily accessible to the passengers :eek:)

    The whole point is, look for problems needing solutions, not solutions needing problems.
  3. cameron_john


    Sep 15, 2011
    thanks for the reply!

    the main advantages of fiber optics i can see are,

    high bandwidth, low signal loss, immune to emi and other noise, secure signal, no risks of sparks, weight less than copper, corrosion resistant.

    there are probably many many more.

    you make a good point, that aside from general weigh saving, the overall safety of on board systems could be improved by having multiple backup connections to the same device, so if as in that incident one is severed, normal operation can continue(that concept could play a large part)

    unfortunately wireless technologies tend not to be used on board aircraft (aside for passenger utilities, wi-fi for example, and uhf radio for external comms) as they are deemed too at risk to interference.

    "The whole point is, look for problems needing solutions, not solutions needing problems"

    haha, very well said, and very true
  4. Digital_Angel_316


    Oct 1, 2011
    I agree with Steve. I would like to see a proposal that is a result of market research
    with a set of comparisons and tradeoffs with a brief technical analysis that leads you
    into further work on your project. It would include a bibliography - two simple examples
    of which are below.

    I would look into the various fiber optic network topologies also, they are well
    documented and understood and can be summarized in a diagram and a page of text.
    I would look into Mil-Std-1553 data bus for communications and it's fiber optic cousin
    Mil-Std-1773. Another keyword for review would be FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data

    I don't know much about a 10,000 word report so much as a set of documents that
    show the design process (re-posted from another thread on this forum below).

    With appropriate use of tables/charts/spreadsheets and graphs and diagrams and
    careful references to your bibliography, you might be able to stay within your 10k word
    total budget. The process is critically important -- the technology is the
    implementation of the requirements, good science and good engineering.

    Reference articles (2):
    (1) Fiber Optics on a Plane:

    Monday, September 25, 2006 By Kate Greene
    Monday, S than a hundred miles of electrical wires in the average plane, controlling
    nearly everything from landing gear to flight-attendant calls. All that insulated copper
    wire is a big liability: it's heavy, it's susceptible to electromagnetic interference, and
    when not properly maintained, it can cause system failures and fires.

    (2) Under federal contract, Northrop Grumman seeks to
    replace copper-based aircraft wire, cabling with carbon nanotubes

    Nov 10, 2010
    Nanocomp Technologies, Inc. (Concord, NH), a developer of energy-saving performance
    materials and component products from carbon nanotubes (CNTs), announced it has
    been awarded a manufacturing contract from Northrop Grumman under the U.S. Army
    Manufacturing Technology Program (ManTech).

    Posted from a previous thread regarding a University Project approach on this forum:

    Self-healing Ring Topology ..........................................................................Star Network Topology ........................................Bus Network with Backbone
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