New technology to make aeronautical composites without fear of lightning

Cost-effective fiberglass mesh fabric

Following the study of Nanocomposites with the National Center for Nano-Science, the Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Technology Center has joined hands with AVIC industry to explore the use of new technologies to improve the conductive properties of composites.

This new technology is known as “interlayer functionality”. Recently, the Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Technology Center and AVIC Industry in AVIC Composites Co., Ltd. signed a cooperation agreement to improve the toughness, damage resistance and electrical conductivity of composites by developing this technology, thereby reducing the damage caused by lightning strikes to aircraft. In fact, lightning resistance is also the main application research direction of nanocomposites at the present stage.

Today, the application of composites on civil aircraft has become one of the criteria for measuring the advanced nature of aircraft. Compared with metal materials, carbon fiber composites have many advantages, such as designability, higher specific strength and specific stiffness. Since the 60 ‘s, the use of composite materials on airliners has been increasing after decades of development, and gradually replace aluminum alloy and become the body’s main structural materials.

Today, the application proportion of several new models of composite materials that civil aircraft manufacturers have introduced has reached more than 50% of. Among them, the proportion of composite materials used has reached 53% in the body structure of Airbus A350XWB aircraft. It is currently the highest proportion of the use of large civilian aircraft.

But composites also have disadvantages. Cheng Long, general manager of Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Technology Center, said that composites have poor conductivity and damage resistance. So there are great safety risks when they encounter lightning strikes. To this end, manufacturers will add a layer of metal protection mesh to the surface of the fuselage to help conduct electricity in the production, which invisibly increase the weight of the fuselage and affect the economy of the aircraft. “We want to develop appropriate solutions on the basis of existing regulations.”

In view of this problem, the team of Professor Yi Xiaosu from AVIC Composites Co., Ltd. has innovatively put forward the concept of Interlayer Function. This technology can replace the anti-lightning metal protection mesh on the traditional aircraft, which makes the composites have good electrical conductivity and damage resistance, so as to successfully avoid lightning and anti-ice.

In the early stage of scientific research, the Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Technology Center will carry out engineering testing of Interlayer Functional technology. Cheng Long said the Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Technology Center hopes to begin testing the materials next year. The test will take place in normal flight and simulated state. “But this technology will take a long time from laboratory research and development to practical applications. It will not only to meet technical standards and evidentiary requirements, but also to minimize production costs, so as to achieve large-scale industrial production.”

Cheng Long also said that the project on “Wing Morphological transformation” is currently implemented in Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Technology Center except projects about nanomaterials, 3D printing and conductive composites. This means that the aircraft does not need to use an actuator to change the shape of the wing, which can be achieved by electricity. The benefit of this solution is very great. “Changes in the moving way can save a lot of time, especially in the maintenance of the aircraft. In addition, because of the reduction of the operating system, the aircraft can further reduce weight, thus improving operational efficiency. “