Engineers aim to make air travel greener
Press release issued: 3 February 2010
Carbon emissions from air travel could be reduced thanks to a new collaboration between engineers from the Universities of Bristol and Bath and the aerospace industry.
The £1.4 million project will investigate new ways of using composite materials for wing panels in aircraft.
The research, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and aircraft manufacturers Airbus and GKN, will be using carbon fibres that are curved within flat plates to produce damage-tolerant, buckle-free structures.
This will lead to substantial cost and weight savings of between 10 and 30 per cent on structural components, saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions from the aviation industry, in turn helping reduce the impact on the environment.
Professor Paul Weaver, from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and the Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), is leading the University of Bristol team, which includes Dr Kevin Potter and Dr Stephen Hallett.
The Bristol-based team will be leading the development and manufacturing of the new carbon fibre materials, and the Bath team will be investigating different designs for the structures of wing panels to test their damage tolerance. Both teams will be using mathematical modelling techniques to optimise and test their designs.
Dr Richard Butler is leading the University of Bath team, which includes Dr H Alicia Kim and Professor Giles Hunt. The project stems from research carried out under the ABBSTRACT consortium (Airbus, Bristol, Bath STrategic Research Alliance in Composites Technology).
The addition of GKN to the collaboration, as one of Airbus' risk sharing partners and supplier of major wing components, creates a strong link with the manufacturing industry.
Dr Butler said: “This project could really make a difference in reducing the environmental impact of air travel.
“We will be pushing the boundaries of composites technology and believe we can help achieve thousands of tonnes in fuel saving over the life of an aircraft.”
Professor Weaver added: “This exciting programme will help ensure that the UK is at the forefront of aircraft structures technology.”
Further informationGKN plc is a global engineering business serving mainly the automotive, industrial, off-highway and aerospace markets. It has operations in more than 30 countries, nearly 35,000 employees in subsidiaries and joint ventures and sales of GBP4.4 billion in the year to 31 December 2008. GKN plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: GKN). GKN Aerospace is the aerospace operation of GKN plc, serving a global customer base. Operating in North and South America, Australia, the Asia Pacific and Europe, GKN Aerospace offers 24 hour 'follow the sun' engineering. With sales of GBP1bn, the business is focused around three major product areas - aerostructures, propulsion systems and transparencies, plus a number of specialist product areas - electro-thermal ice protection, fuel and flotation systems, and bullet resistant glass. The business is equally split along military and civil lines with significant participation on all major aircraft programmes today. GKN Aerospace is a major supplier of complex composite structures; offers one of the most comprehensive capabilities in high performance metallics processing and is the world leading supplier of cockpit transparencies and passenger cabin windows.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £850 million a year in research and postgraduate training to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.