Aernnova, Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria and Airbus – as partners in the Graphene Flagship, the European Union’s largest-ever research initiative with funding of EUR 1 billion – have produced a leading edge for the Airbus A350 horizontal tail plane using graphene-enhanced composites.
“We worked together with Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria and Airbus as part of the Graphene Flagship’s production work package and our collaboration greatly benefitted from the discussions during meetings,” said Ana Reguero of Aernnova.
“Airbus brought us – as the manufacturer of the current leading edge – together with Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria on the project.”
As the first part of the tail plane 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 applied milling forces,” said Reguero.
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 moulding of the leading edge.”
At a component level the team found that the resin with the added graphene showed increased mechanical and thermal properties, 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 provide a significant saving in fuel and therefore costs and emissions over the aircraft lifetime.
“Our small-scale tests showed an increase in properties. We will next test a one third scale model,” said Reguero.
“This is a great example of the collaborations fostered by the Graphene Flagship,” said Professor Andrea C. Ferrari, its science and technology officer. “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 follows the plans of our innovation and technology, where composite technologies play a prominent role.”