UK composites project for greener aviation

Two UK universities are collaborating with the aerospace industry to investigate new ways of using composite materials.

The £1.4 million project, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and aircraft manufacturers Airbus and GKN, will be using carbon fibres that are curved within flat plates to produce damage-tolerant, buckle-free structures.

This will lead to cost and weight savings of between 10 and 30 per cent on structural components, saving fuel and consequently reducing CO2 emissions from the aviation industry.

The project stems from research carried out under the ABBSTRACT consortium (Airbus, Bristol, Bath STrategic Research Alliance in Composites Technology).

The Bristol-based team will be leading the development and manufacturing of the new carbon fibre materials, and the Bath team will be investigating different designs for the structures of wing panels to test their damage tolerance. Both teams will be using mathematical modelling techniques to optimise and test their designs.

The addition of GKN to the collaboration, as one of Airbus' risk-sharing partners and supplier of major wing components, creates a strong link with the manufacturing industry.

Dr Richard Butler, who is leading the University of Bath team, said: "This project could really make a difference in reducing the environmental impact of air travel. We will be pushing the boundaries of composites technology and believe we can help achieve thousands of tonnes in fuel saving over the life of an aircraft."

Professor Paul Weaver, from the University of Bristol's Department of Aerospace Engineering and the Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), added: "This exciting programme will help ensure that the UK is at the forefront of aircraft structures technology."

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