Thursday, October 14, 2010

Composite Materials to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Sivakumar Dhar Malingam presented a seminar yesterday on "Analysis of self-reinforced polypropylene based composite-aluminium hybrid structures" at the Australian National University. Material science is outside my usual area of interest but lightweight sandwiches of metal and plastic can be used to replace heavy panels in cars and aircraft to Reduce your Carbon Foot Print.

Such panels have been used for the skin of aircraft such as the Airbus A380. But mass production at low cost requires flat sheets of the material to be stamped quickly into complex shapes. Unlike plain sheets of steel or aluminium, the composite material (such as Twintex) tends to tear or wrinkle when stamped. The research is looking at how much heat is needed to to make the process work and how quickly the material can be deformed.

The research shows that moderate heat (enough to make the meta more malleable but not enough to melt the plastic layer) helps the process. While use for the mass production of car panels is a long wahy off and large passegner air caraft are not produced in sufficient numbers for mass production, the process might be applied to UAVs. Small pilot-less aircraft are being produced in increasing numbers and so mass production techniques could be applied. They would be small enough to be made with just a few stamped panels. A small UAV might be be made in just two pieces: top and bottom.

UAVs are not subject to the same safety requirements as passenger aircraft and so could be made with a new and relatively untested process. Complex blended wing shapes, designed for low radar cross section could be made to fine tolerances using a stamping process.

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