SPEC 2011: on track for the "all electric" aircraft

The fourth SPEC (Safran Power Electronics Center) symposium took place on November 8 and 9 in Lyon. It was an opportunity for Safran and partners to take stock of the latest research on onboard electrical systems, leading to tomorrow's "more electric" and "all electric" aircraft.

More than 230 people attended the fourth SPEC symposium, representing not only Safran group companies, but also aircraft and engine manufacturers, suppliers, research organizations and universities. The symposium was held at the National Institute for Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon, on November 8 and 9, 2011. The Safran Power Electronics Center, better known as SPEC, is the Group's center of excellence in this domain, bringing together in a broad network the teams working on "all electric" aircraft technologies in the Group.

"Our goal is to prepare the technological breakthroughs needed for tomorrow's aircraft," explains Régis Meuret, head of the Research department at the Safran Power division of Hispano-Suiza. The SPEC symposium is organized every two years, and enables research teams to report on their work and meet their counterparts in other Group companies, as well as research players, including customers, research labs, schools and state agencies (DGA for defense, DGAC for civil aviation).

Safran decided to organize this year's event at a prestigious engineering school to mark its closeness to the world of research and higher education. The fourth SPEC symposium also allowed Safran to organize meetings between human resources managers in its companies and about 50 students who had been invited to the symposium, for individual interviews.

From technological building blocks to aircraft applications
The biannual symposium spans the realm of "all electric" aircraft. Participants this year reviewed one of the vital points for aircraft safety, namely lightning protection. Régis Meuret explains: "Next-generation planes will use more and more composite materials, which are lighter than metals, but offer less protection against lightning. A number of research efforts are in progress to find ways to avoid damage to delicate electrical and electronic components on aircraft."

One of the other subjects addressed during the symposium was the advent of electronic components made of silicon carbide, which offer higher performance than current silicon materials.

Advances in 2012 should include the introduction of electric motors in wheels to allow aircraft to move on the ground without having to use their jet engines ("Electric Green Taxiing System"), and continued work on fly-by-wire controls. In other words, plenty of subject matter already being prepared for the next symposium, scheduled for 2013.