Engineers from the Universities of Bath and Bristol in the UK and the aerospace industry are collaborating in a £1.4 million (US$2.2 million) project to investigate new ways of using composite materials for wing panels in aircraft.
The research, 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 substantial cost and weight savings of between 10 and 30% on structural components, saving fuel and 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 optimize 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.