New sensor detects ice accumulation in real time

A new sensor that detects ice accumulation in real-time has been created by a group of researchers from the engineering school of the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

The sensor is capable of detecting the precise moment when ice begins to form on a surface. The new device was developed by two different teams, one dealing with microelectronics and the other with materials science, particularly ice and water repellents.

The new sensor could be used mainly on aircraft, which are usually very sensitive to ice that can form on the wings, as well as other sensitive parts of the aircraft, putting passengers and crew at risk. Even today, ice detection systems on aircraft can still be considered “rather rudimentary” and refer to mostly visual inspections on the ground before take-off, as reported by Kevin Golovin, one of the researchers involved in the project.

The new sensor, based on a planar microwave resonator, according to the researchers who created it, is mechanically robust, sensitive and easy to manufacture, as reported by Mohammad Zarifi, another UBCO researcher involved in the project: “The sensors provide a complete picture of ice conditions on any surface, such as an airplane wing. They can detect when water hits the wing, track the phase transition from water to ice and then measure the thickness of the ice as it grows, all without altering the wing’s aerodynamic profile.”

In addition, according to the same researchers, the fact that it uses technologies such as radiofrequency and microwave allows the same sensor to operate wirelessly and without physical contact.