BERR is funding a major technology research initiative that aims to make aviation electronics safer and more environmentally friendly.
Involving 16 companies, including Rolls-Royce and Goodrich Power Systems, as well as university teams, Advanced Electric Machines through Materials sets out six key challenges for magnets and wiring coils.
The latest generation of aircraft, such as the Boeing 787, aims to keep weight and therefore fuel consumption down by using a much greater range of electrical and electronic systems in place of the heavy hydraulics that, for example, operate flaps on the wings.
Such systems require much bigger generators, which are best located inside the jet engine, but traditional materials cannot withstand the high temperatures there, which could exceed 500°C.
The Teesside team has devised a new material, known as a ‘ceramer’, incorporating characteristics of ceramics and polymers, to be used as a coating for wiring. Just a micrometer-scale covering is sufficienty strong and stable at high temperatures and under the high forces produced in a rapidly rotating generator.
It is being developed using a high-precision chemical engineering technique known as a sol-gel process, which takes individual molecules of the polymer and ceramic and constructs them chemically in solution, where they react together.