Self-healing, additive alloys study for aerospace kicks off

A research project is underway to investigate self-healing alloys for use in aerospace structures.

The two-pronged project will firstly develop a new generation of self-healing alloys suitable for additive manufacturing (AM) processes followed by the development of a metallic manufacturing process that is as flexible as AM and as precise as subtractive manufacturing.

Southampton-based Ilika has been awarded a £466,000 grant for research and technology for its role in the £2.15m, three-year project with Reliance Precision Engineering, Sheffield University, GKN and BAE Systems.

Ilika, a company focussed on accelerating the development of new materials through its patented, high throughput techniques, said the project would facilitate the manufacture of novel components with critical feature tolerances.

By doing so, the project expects to overcome the challenges faced in the design of aerospace components with lower weight, structural integrity and functional performance.

Graeme Purdy, Ilika CEO told The Engineer via email that self-healing alloys are metals which respond to stress by changing their grain structure to eliminate micro-cracks.

“They would be used for load bearing components such as engine mountings on aeroplanes that need to cope with repeat vibrational loads,” he added.

The project was selected for funding from submissions made to Innovate UK’s competition, in partnership with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, titled Building UK’s Leadership in Aerospace Technology.

‘The SHAPE [Self-­Healing Alloys for Precision Engineering] programme is unique in that it will be deploying Ilika’s high throughput techniques to assess a wide variety of alloy families,” said Purdy.

The results of Building UK’s leadership in aerospace technology can be found at this address: