Applications and Uses of Magnets in an Aircraft

A magnet is an object that is able to produce a magnetic field, and they have been a benefit to the engineering sector and across various industries for a great amount of time. Within the realm of aerospace, magnets prove useful in a variety of applications due to their capability to function for a long amount of time and within more harsh environments. Magnets benefit systems such as aircraft loudspeakers, the fuel pump, flow regulators, actuation system, air compressor, flight control system, and much more. Due to the many uses that magnets provide for aircraft, it is important to understand more about how they work, as well as how they aid operations.

When discussing magnets, it is important to be aware that there are both permanent and temporary magnets. A permanent magnet is a material that is capable of producing its own persistent magnetic field. A temporary magnet, on the other hand, achieves magnetism due to being near a permanent magnetic field or electric current. In the context of aerospace engineering, the permanent magnet is more desired and useful. When choosing the right magnet for an application, there are various qualities and characteristics that are sought after. These include being small in size and weight, having long term performance, being very efficient, holding higher retention force, having a higher traction versus distance capabilities, and more. Due to the extreme conditions that the magnets will have to endure during normal operations, they must also hold great integrity and still perform efficiently under various stresses.

The functionality of magnets and their roles differ depending on the aerospace system that they are installed in. For instance, magnets were introduced into the flight control system during the mid 1970’s as an actuator as they proved to be much more reliable than a basic hydraulic system that was resulting in failures in helicopters during the past. As an electromagnetic actuator, magnets also prove very useful for a variety of systems and operation of them. With a bar magnet, systems such as the aircraft compass are able to provide pilots with directional awareness and guidance, proving to be a critical part of flight and safety.

Beyond just aircraft, magnets have helped salt water vessels and systems achieve great breakthroughs in travel through electromagnetic propulsion. Electromagnetic propulsion refers to a principle that describes acceleration achieved through electrical currents and magnetic fields. In the realm of using liquids for acceleration, the method is called magnetohydrodynamic drive, and it allows for a vehicle to have propulsion with no moving parts. To create propulsion, an electrical current creates an opposing magnetic field or charges a field which is repelled. An electromagnetic force then pushes the conductor perpendicularly to the magnetic field while a current is flowing, and this creates propulsion. This process benefits submarines, ships, torpedos, and any other vessel that traverses in salt water. These magnetic forces and principles go beyond just marine applications, as the same drive system can theoretically be utilized for space travel as well.


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