Aircrafts involve the use of complex and advanced engineering devices, making them bulky and excessive fuel consuming mobility machines. The challenges today in the aviation industry is to reduce as much weight as possible; as every single pound of weight reduction directly affects fuel consumption and cost effectiveness. Additionally, there is also a significant transition in the industry towards green engineering, where efforts are made to develop aircrafts that can be recycled and reused again.
Use of advanced composite materials
The answer to these challenges lies in the use of advanced composite materials in developing aircraft components. Advanced composite materials are characterized by high strength fibers with high stiffness and modulus of elasticity compared to other materials. The application of composite materials in aviation industry is specifically due to their desirable physical and chemical properties, such as light weight coupled with high stiffness, dimensional stability, temperature and chemical resistance as well as flex performance.
The ability of the composites to possess high stiffness with reduced weight is due to its intelligent structure. Made out of two materials, one acts as a supporting matrix while the second one builds on this base, reinforcing the entire material. Because of the fibrous composition, there is also a possibility to develop different shapes. And, with the ability to develop composites with layers of fibers running in different directions, it is also possible to design structures with unique abilities, such as designing the structure with the ability to bend only in one direction.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of the best examples of an aircraft utilizing 50% composite materials for its construction to achieve weight reduction and improvement in reduced fuel consumption.
Although difficult to process, composite materials made out of biodegradable fibers can be recycled, allowing aircraft companies to avoid investing in buying first-hand parts. Moreover, the use of simulation tools to evaluate the aircraft components compliments the cost reduction objectives, and allows manufacturers to gain a competitive edge in the market and meet green transportation goals.
Image Credit: http://www.ifi.uio.no/siag/problems/grandine
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