Graphene Flagship partners Aernnova, Grupo Antolin-Ingenieria and Airbus have produced a leading edge for the Airbus A350 horizontal tail plane using graphene-enhanced composites. 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 Ana Reguero of Aernnova. “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 molding of the leading edge.”
The team has 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.”