Canada-based Nova Graphene has been awarded two contracts by Canada’s Department of National Defense's Innovation for Defense Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, to develop graphene-enhanced materials to protect helicopter rotors from erosion & wear due to exposure to sand, ice, and water.
The ability to fly in degraded visual environments (e.g., rain or sand storms) is operationally advantageous, but tends to result in increased damage to the aircraft, especially erosion damage to the rotary wing blades. Each rotary wing blade has an integral leading edge erosion strip, which when damaged requires the replacement of the entire blade.
Polymeric and tape coatings have been employed on the leading edge to extend the life of the blades in a dry sand environment. However, these coatings are intended for protection against incidental exposures and require frequent touch-ups between flights, increasing the maintenance burden and reducing the availability of the aircraft. The durability of the protective coating is a key consideration since coatings failure results in increased rotor vibrations, impacting flight safety and often results in an aborted mission.
Through the IDEaS program, Nova Graphene is leveraging its proprietary graphene technologies to provide the means to significantly improve protections for these rotors, thereby increases flight capability while minimizing downtime due to maintenance.
The first contract award is for the development of graphene-enhanced protective coatings for the entire rotor blade, while the second contract is to develop an improved leading-edge protective strip.
Nova Graphene's C.E.O., Paul Beasant, said: “We are honored to be working to provide improved flight capability for helicopters for our military. As our production capability continues to expand, we also look forward to making our products available to our allies, as well as for commercial applications.”