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Watch: NASA carries out volcanic ash engine test

NASA researchers are spending at least the next six months poring over data from a test that involved sending volcanic ash through an airplane engine.  


Watch: NASA carries out volcanic ash engine test
Image courtesy: NASA

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: NASA's latest task is to create problems in engines. Yes, you heard that right. For once, NASA is trying to create problems on purpose, only to carry out tests later.

How? By feeding volcanic ash to the engine. Why? Well, if reports are to be believed, that's one way to see if a new engine health monitoring system can detect failures before they happen. If the tests are successful, the system capable of predicting engine challenges and improving fuel economy could become available for the next generation of commercial airline engines.

NASA researchers are spending at least the next six months poring over data from a test that involved sending volcanic ash through an airplane engine.

(The ash plume (the brown streak) from the big 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland contributed to airline disruptions in Europe for almost a week. Image courtesy: NASA/Goddard)

According to NASA's findings from the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 80 commercial aircraft encountered potentially hazardous volcanic ash in flight and at airports from 1993-2008. That was before the big 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland which disrupted hundreds of flight in Europe and the lives of about 10 million airline passengers over six days.

(Oil smoke billows from the right inboard engine of the C-17 while a probe collects emissions data during 2011 VIPR engine health monitoring tests. Image courtesy: NASA/Armstrong)

NASA further quoted John Lekki, NASA Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research (VIPR) Principal Investigator, based at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, saying, “The primary issue is that volcanic ash forms glass in the hot sections of some engines. This clogs cooling holes and chokes off flow within the engine which can eventually lead to an engine power loss. It is very erosive, which causes damage to compressor blades and other parts in the engine”.

After the tests are over, the investigation will continue as the research engine is taken apart and evaluated.

Watch the video here:

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