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Electrical and thermal effects of fault currents in aircraft electrical power systems with composite aero-structures

Jones, Catherine E. and Norman, Patrick J. and Sztykiel, Michal and Peña Alzola, Rafael and Burt, Graeme M. and Galloway, Stuart J. and Kawashita, Luiz F. and Hallett, Stephen R. (2018) Electrical and thermal effects of fault currents in aircraft electrical power systems with composite aero-structures. IEEE Transactions on Transportation Electrification.

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    Abstract

    The upwards trend for the use of electrical power on state of the art aircraft is resulting in significant change to the design of power system architectures and protection systems for these platforms. There is a pull from the aerospace industry to integrate the electrical power system with the aircraft’s structural materials to form an embedded system, reducing the need for bulky cable harnesses. This directly impacts the fault response for ground faults and ultimately the development of appropriate protection systems. Such structural materials include composites such as carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP). This paper presents the experimental capture and analysis of the response of CFRP to electrical fault current, which indicates the need for two distinct sets of electrical ground fault detection criteria for low and high resistance faults and identifies the threshold resistance for this distinction. By extrapolating these results to develop models of CFRP for use in transient simulation studies, the key electrical fault detection thresholds for speed, selectivity and sensitivity for a DC system rail to ground fault through CFRP are identified. This provides the first set of key factors for electrical fault detection through CFRP, providing a platform for the design of fully integrated structural and electrical power systems, with appropriate electrical protection systems.