Bake a plane, save it from structural damage

May 28th, 2009 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 28 (IANS) Researchers are developing a new technology that involves baking the material that make up a plane to ensure the structural safety of the next generation of more fuel efficient and eco-friendly aircraft.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) doctoral student Caleb White has been upgrading an invention to detect cracks in metal aircraft for use in new, largely advanced carbon fibre-structure jets.

The new structures are made by placing multiple layers of carbon fibre cloth over a forming tool to produce the required shape, impregnating it with a resin matrix and baking it in an autoclave at high temperature and under several atmospheres pressure.

The resulting lightweight, stronger than steel components produced for the new generation of aircraft include the fuselage and cabin pressure vessel, wings and tailplane.

Since 2005 much of this has been done with the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (CRC-ACS) in Melbourne.

The world’s two largest aircraft manufacturers, Boeing, with its Boeing 787 and Airbus Industrie with its Airbus A350, are pouring billions of dollars into the first generation of largely carbon fibre composite structure aircraft.

With other innovations, financially stressed airlines are looking at these aircraft delivering increased fuel efficiency of more than 20 percent.

Caleb White and colleagues have developed and demonstrated a technique that they believe can work like a human nervous system and can monitor the structural health of the aircraft during flight.

It is an extension of the successful comparative vacuum monitoring system invented in Western Australia that has captured the interest of many international airlines for their metal aircraft.

The system employs vacuum, and any detection of resultant differential pressures, for in-situ, real-time monitoring of crack initiation and/or propagation.

White’s work is aimed at taking the system from use on today’s largely metal aircraft to future carbon fibre-based jets, said an RMIT release.

White’s research is being presented at the Pathfinders: the Innovators Conference at the National Convention Centre in Canberra.

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