The future of materials for aerospace?
It’s estimated that one in every 1,000 UK flights is subjected to a bird strike. Such impacts pose a very real threat due to the potential damage they can cause to the structure of an aircraft. Conventional fibre reinforced plastics materials used currently for aircraft have a relatively poor impact performance, so aircraft designs are often far heavier than the ideal to ensure post-impact structural integrity. Aircraft safety is therefore maintained, but it does leave scope for innovation in novel materials that could offer better impact performance with lower mass; reducing fuel consumption and emission as a result.
Fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composites offer high strength; low mass and reduced manufacturing costs compared with conventional aerospace materials, and are starting to be used widely across the aerospace industry. However, optimising the use of FRP materials remains a challenge.
Developing an innovative material
TitanWeave™ is an innovative technology developed by QinetiQ that relies on the efficient, controlled introduction of high-energy absorbing titanium alloy wires, known as Shape Memory Alloy (SMA), into a fibre reinforced plastic (FRP). It provides cost-effective, lightweight and penetration resistant composites. This clever structure can withstand large amounts of elastic and plastic deformation at high stress and has enhanced ability to absorb energy before structural penetration; in other words, it is resistant to damage when struck.
Compared to conventional composite materials it can provide three times the amount of penetration resistance and 212% more energy absorption.
TitanWeave™ technology can provide benefit wherever impact poses a threat, but particularly where structural mass is driven by the need to resist impact threats during operation; such as the aircraft example above. The mass of these structures could be considerably reduced using TitanWeave™ without cost increase.
Studies have demonstrated that SMA reinforced composite materials could be included in a typical aircraft wing leading edge skin, enabling a significant reduction in weight for a given level of impact damage protection against bird strike or other foreign object damage. TitanWeave™ technology can also eliminate the need for parasitic layers used to mitigate environmental effects or lightning strike, offering further cost and mass reduction, and simplifying traditional manufacturing techniques.
With OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and airlines constantly striving to decrease emissions and lower costs, utilising technologies that reduce mass and manufacturing cost is increasingly important.
TitanWeave™ is an amazing innovation created by materials experts at QinetiQ. It is protected by a suite of intellectual property rights (IPR) including multiple patent applications and trademark registrations in Europe, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and the US.
So why is innovation and intellectual property (IP) important to our scientist and engineers?
IP provides a valuable resource to enable a business, like QinetiQ, to pursue its commercial ambitions. One example of this is prohibiting competitors from using our brand-defining technologies, thereby maintaining QinetiQ’s competitive advantage. Alternatively, IP allows us to actively license QinetiQ technology in return for a royalty income.
IP also helps us to work better with our existing and potential customers. We are constantly inventing and innovating to solve real problems. Using mission-led innovation, we can deliver tangible benefits to our partners; sometimes through a new product or service or other times through a new approach.
For more on the benefits of intellectual property, please read this blog from earlier in the series, developed with our Head of IP Legal Services.
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