Project Title: Aircraft Engine Bleed Air Contamination Detection System

Honeywell logoTeam 15050 Members:
Erika Balbas, systems engineering
Zachary Fier, mechanical engineering
Qichao Hu, mechanical engineering
Joshua Johnston, electrical and computer engineering
Jeffrey Mrkonich, biomedical engineering
Hao Yuan, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Honeywell Aerospace

Design helps prevent harm to aircraft components, flight crews, passengers

Team 15050 - Aircraft Engine Bleed Air Contamination Detection SystemPassengers on cross-country flights aren’t typically thinking about air from engine bleed. But that air is important. It is used for air conditioning and pressurizing the cabin.

Bleed air comes directly from the engine before jet fuel is added. It’s at high temperature and high pressure. And, said mechanical engineering senior Zack Fier, it can be dirty air.

More specifically, engine bleed air can contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are harmful to aircraft components, the flight crew and passengers. Team 15050’s mission: develop a system that detects VOCs before they reach dangerous levels.

The Honeywell Aerospace-sponsored interdisciplinary group set out to accomplish two things. First, their system had to cool the air enough for the contaminant detection sensor to handle it. Secondly, the sensor had to make measurements and deliver real-time data to an easy-to-read user interface.

The resulting interface illuminates a green LED when VOCs are within safe levels. An orange LED gives the danger signal, which means that it’s time for the cockpit crew to vent the engine bleed air into the atmosphere.

Since the team couldn’t land an aircraft on the UA Mall or present a live demo of a jet engine at work for Design Day, the students found a low-tech alternative.

Their idea was based on the knowledge that jet engines aren’t the only producers of VOCs. Humans do it too, with every exhaled breath.

Systems engineering senior Erika Balbas and her teammates had visitors blow into a tube, and the demo detection system went to work with a laptop readout showing the VOC levels rising rapidly, but not to harmful levels.

The team concluded that their prototype could potentially be produced by Honeywell for use in aircraft, and the students’ research was described in an invention disclosure.