Delft (Netherlands) – Researchers at Delft University of Technology have created an aluminum composite material that is stronger than carbon fiber, costs less to manufacture, weighs 20% less and is immune to metal fatigue. It is being billed as a material that could revolutionize the airline industries, saving $100 billion worldwide.
Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner has received a lot of press surrounding the fact that it’s created largely out of a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) material. While this makes it lighter and stronger than traditional aircraft aluminum, it’s also more expensive to manufacture. With an emphasis on long-term costs such as fuel savings and maintenance, the CFRP engineering decision will likely prove true over the long haul.
Still, a team of scientists at Delft University of Technology are hoping to buck that trend toward CFRP materials in future aircraft. They’ve demonstrated a new aluminum-based composite material called CentrAl, which stands for Central Reinforced Aluminum. Comprised of alternating high-quality aluminum and composite layers in a fiber metal laminate (FML) assembly process, the end result is a very strong, light and inexpensive-to-manufacture material which is reportedly immune to metal fatigue.
According to the researchers, simple repairs to the CentrAl material can also be carried out immediately. This is unlike CFRP constructions which often require complete component replacement.
The new material is being presented this week at a conference in Delft, Netherlands by GTM Advanced Structures, Alcoa and engineers from Delft University of Technology. Research is continuing to look at fatigue, as well as analysis of damage caused by corrosion, hail storms and other weather phenomena, including even trucks that collide with aircraft while they’re on the ground. According to researchers, this material is showing promise toward addressing all of those goals.