In the aerospace and aviation industry’s pneumatic systems are typically used to control the flows of fuel and other essential fluids for propulsion, thrust, lubrication, isolation, purge and other fluid-control applications. These pneumatic systems are usually supplied by a tank of compressed gas and one of the main challenges of this design is to eliminate the possibility of any leakage (or excess flow) from the tank. Should this occur, it’s likely the issues would either be shorter system life or a larger tank. In these situations, a solenoid valve that offers the key benefits of zero leakage along with a wide operating pressure range, can be an effective barrier between the tank and the system. However, engineers will also have to consider other factors, which will have a direct impact on the performance of the solenoid valve. For example, various combinations of operating temperatures, material compatibility, power limitations and expected life-cycle all add-up to the complexity of system requirements.

An effective solution

Precision micro-hydraulic specialists The Lee Company has been at the forefront of fluid control technology since 1948 and offers the smallest solenoid valves on the market. However, more importantly, Lee’s solenoid valves have proven themselves with decades of use in demanding aerospace applications, along with other applications involving harsh conditions, ranging from high temperatures and pressures of deep subsea oil wells to the cold and vacuum of outer space.

A good example of this is the ongoing development of their Zero Leak Pneumatic Solenoid Valve, which is has proven to be an ideal barrier for aerospace pneumatic systems.

It features a polyimide shaft tip that ensures a bubble tight seal on nitrogen in a package weighing only 2.24 ounces and has a direct acting design which operates without pressure assistance and flows up to 30SLPM of air at 200psi differential.

Ultra-compact and energy efficient, the 70-ohm solenoid coil requires less than 4W to open the valve, and for more demanding applications custom configurations are available with 6000psid operating capability, or qualified for over one million cycles.

Benefits and applications

The valve configuration was initially developed to meet the difficult requirements associated with olenoid-barrier valves used in space systems, where typically the valve controls flows from a tank upstream of a satellites propulsion system. They are also used in launch vehicles as piloting valves for isolating the pneumatics, whether it’s for fuel, oxidier or helium purge systems, as well as being used for controlling thrust vector actuators. Aircraft systems also require barrier valves with deployment on tanks of compressed gas, landing gear or braking systems which can utilise pneumatic back-up systems.

Lee’s zero leak pneumatic solenoid valves are just one example of its range of powerful industry-specific products for a wide range of applications. This illustrates a passion for innovation which enables its customers to solve their toughest fluid control problems.

By The Lee Company engineers