Greener air travel

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 £1.4m project will investigate new ways of using composite materials for wing panels in aircraft.

The researchers, funded by the Engineering and 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 to reduce the impact on the environment.

Prof 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, while 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 Bath team, which includes Dr H Alicia Kim and Prof 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’s risk-sharing partners and supplier of major wing components, creates a strong link with the manufacturing industry.