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Structural mechanics - enabling weight reduction and performance enhancement of composite aerospace structures (for redaction)

Summary of the impact

For aerospace vehicles, the development of new materials and structural configurations are key tools in the relentless drive to reduce weight and increase performance (in terms of, for example, speed and flight characteristics). The economic drivers are clear — it is widely recognised that it is worth approximately $10k to save one pound of weight in a spacecraft per launch and $500 per pound for an aircraft over its lifetime. The environmental drivers (ACARE 2050) are also clear — reduced aircraft weight leads to lower fuel burn and, in turn, to lower CO2 and NOx emissions. With such high cost-to-weight ratios, there is intense industrial interest in the development of new structural configurations/concepts and enhanced structural models that allow better use of existing or new materials. Analytical structural mechanics models of novel anisotropic structures, developed at the University's Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), are now used in the industrial design of aircraft and spacecraft. Based on this research, a new, unique anisotropic composite blade, designed to meet an Urgent Operational Requirement for the MoD, is now flying on AgustaWestland EH101 helicopters that are deployed in Theatre. In addition, the new modelling tools and techniques have been adopted by Airbus, AgustaWestland, Cassidian and NASA and incorporated into LUSAS's finite element analysis software. These tools have, for example, been used to inform Airbus's decision to use a largely aluminium wing design rather than a hybrid CFRP/aluminium wing for the A380.

Submitting Institution

University of Bristol

Unit of Assessment

General Engineering

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Engineering: Aerospace Engineering, Civil Engineering, Materials Engineering

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