As the first part of the tailplane to contact air, the leading edge is subjected to extreme temperatures caused by compressive heating of the air ahead of the wing. Thus, it must possess excellent mechanical and thermal properties.
"Aernnova supplied the resin to Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria who added graphene directly to the resin and applying milling forces. This creates small graphene particles, an important step to get good graphene infiltration within the resin, avoiding unwanted impurities, such as solvents, which can alter the viscosity of the resin. It is important to maintain the correct viscosity of the resin to ensure the optimal outcome during the resin transfer molding of the leading edge," said Ana Reguero from Aernnova.
At a component level, the team found that the resin showed increased mechanical and thermal properties upon graphene addition, including a decreased fracture speed. By increasing the resin properties with graphene, it will be possible to make the tail edge thinner, decreasing its weight while maintaining its safety. This will give a significant saving in fuel and therefore costs and emissions over the aircraft lifetime.
"Our small-scale tests showed an increase in properties. By end 2018 we will test a one-third scale model," said Reguero.
"This work demonstrates the huge potential of graphene to improve the resin matrices employed in the aerospace sector. It establishes value chains in which graphene producers, resin and composite manufacturers, as well as end users, collaborate closely together to develop new composite products of improved properties" said Costas Galiotis, Composites Work Package Leader from FORTH, Greece.
"This is a great example of the collaborations fostered by the Graphene Flagship. Three of our industrial partners came together to address a key problem and found that graphene offers a solution beyond the state of the art. The development and system integration of graphene-based technologies follow the plans of our innovation and technology, where composite technologies play a prominent role,” added Professor Andrea C. Ferrari, science and technology officer of the Graphene Flagship and chair of its management panel.