Matrix Composites Weigh in for Future Aviation

Aluminium Matrix Composites (AMC) manufacturer, Alvant, is conducting research projects to examine how AMCs can challenge traditional materials in the design and manufacture of aerospace components.


performance material, suitable for applications where conventional metals are expected to approach or exceed their performance limits.

A AMCs claim to offer potential to an

industry that needs to evolve in order to meet ever stringent market and legislative demands. Significant weight reductions compared to legacy materials offer manufactures the chance to meet the challenge of reduced weight and fuel burn while maintaining reliability and lowering whole-life ownership costs. AMCs can be used to engineer

durable lightweight components for harsh environments. Compared to unreinforced metals, AMCs can have higher strength, greater stiffness, lower weight, superior wear resistance, lower coefficients of thermal expansion and superior electrical conductivity. AMCs also offer multiple advantages over polymer fibre reinforced materials, such as carbon composites. These include higher transverse strength and stiffness, a higher thermal operating range, better wear resistance, superior damage tolerance, easier repairability and more opportunity to recycle.

LANDING GEAR OF THE FUTURE Alvant is currently undertaking a two- year, £28m project, titled ‘Large Landing Gear of the Future’ with high-technology group, Safran Landing Systems. Current landing gear systems are

typically stronger and heavier than necessary, accounting for approximately

three per cent of aircraft weight, with a corresponding effect on fuel consumption. Safran believes it is possible to reduce this without diminishing the gear’s capabilities or compromising on safety. The partnership is aiming to reduce landing gear weight by challenging traditional materials in the design and manufacture of landing gear assemblies, and by making use of new materials and manufacturing methods which will reduce fuel burn and noise, while also improving emissions and reliability, and lowering costs. Alvant’s contribution, funded by a £513,000 grant from Innovate UK is enabling the design, manufacture and testing of an AMC brake rod made from Alvant’s AlXal material, which will target a 30 per cent weight reduction over an equivalent titanium component, while maintaining a comparable strength to steel.

WINGS Aircraft wings experience huge changes in temperature and can undergo bird and lightning strikes. The existing materials used in traditional manufacture have also been found to be susceptible to bond degradation between

MCs are an advanced class of composite materials in which aluminium is reinforced with a secondary high-

❱ ❱ CorXal high performance multi- purpose AMC has a sandwich form ideal for use in wing structures

the skin and core elements. This can be caused by environmental factors such as temperature, moisture ingress and contamination, which can have a negative impact on the integrity of the bond. The result has been a tendency to design components with excessive safety factors to compensate for this potential degradation. One solution could be Alvant’s CorXal, a unique high- performance multi-phase AMC that is similar in concept to a sandwich material but made in a single shot process, providing ultra-high stiffness and a density similar to carbon composite. The company is exploring applications which will incorporate the single piece AMC in the leading edge of aircraft wings, as well as various other brackets and structures. Due to the one-shot production of CorXal there is no bond interface between the skin and core elements, it has a continuous aluminium matrix throughout providing a closed system. This means parts made from CorXal will not succumb to environmental conditions, maintaining the necessary structural properties needed, increasing stiffness by up to four times compared to some grades of aluminium and reducing weight by a target of 40 per cent compared to some steels.

Aerospace Test & Validation Vol 2 No. 1 /// 3

❱ ❱ AlXal continuous fibre matrix composite can be

formed as a tube or a flat strip

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