Editorial Feature

Aerospace Industries and Nanomaterials

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Creation of novel materials with the preferred properties has a significant impact on aerospace industries. Manufacturing lightweight structures with excellent properties is the key objective of engineers and material scientists, and nanotechnology developments are expected to have a crucial role to play.

The Aerospace Industry in Australia

Although Australia does not have any leading aerospace manufacturers, it is playing a noteworthy role in the Joint Strike Fighter Program with the United States. This program is a joint venture for US$200 billion between eight countries.

Victoria has several vital aerospace components manufacturers, and a recent history of important innovations in the field. Victorian industries can contribute to the above program.

Nanotechnology Victoria—Aerospace Projects

Nanotechnology Victoria includes a program dedicated to the development of the following materials for the aerospace sector:

  • New lightweight alloys
  • Fire-retardant materials
  • High-strength, lightweight composite laminates that can be applied to ballistic protection and novel damping materials, integrating carbon nanotubes in a range of resins
  • Composites that improve aircraft skin material’s impact resistance
  • Carbon nanotube-filled resins as high-temperature adhesives, wear-resistant coatings, and fillers for repairing corrosion damage

Further Opportunities for Nanotechnology

Structural Materials

Strength, impact resistance, stiffness, long fatigue life, ductility, toughness, and minimal weight are the properties crucial to aerospace materials. Some of the developments are as follows:

  • Improving fiber structure (carbon nanotubes) of composites like Fiber Reinforced Polymers (FRP), which includes enhancing the bonding mechanism between the fibers and the resin, and creating resins with better properties.
  • Creating “super-alloys” and amorphous metals (metals with glass-like structure)
  • Improving the bonding between FRP laminates and metallic sheets (as in GLARE); this can also be applied on metallic repairs using FRP patches
  • Enhancing the weak properties of ceramic and metallic composites, particularly the brittleness of ceramics
  • Creating safer (non-toxic) anti-corrosion coatings, radar-absorbing coatings, super paints (so aircraft do not have to be repainted as frequently), insulator coatings for heat and chemicals, and bio-nanomaterial coatings to maintain airplane surface clean and free of micro-organisms

Fuel

  • Using nanoparticles with liquid jet and rocket fuel (aluminum nanoparticles with liquid hydrogen) to boost the propulsion energy
  • Incorporating nanoparticles (iron-oxide) to serve as a catalyst for solid propellants

Other

  • Developing materials (for example, clothes) and equipment with improved ergonomic characteristics, particularly for astronauts
  • Creating fire-retardant materials for use in the aircraft’s interior to match the aviation standards
  • Creating improved lubricants, and safer (non-hazardous) nano-fluids for hydraulic use
  • Creating materials and coatings that endure cosmic radiation and low temperatures
  • Improving the safety and security of aircraft by creating antiballistic materials for sensitive parts (cockpit door) and sensors for chemical and biological toxins
  • Creating micro- and nanoscale electronic devices (such as longer-lasting batteries for satellites) to minimize weight with better reliability

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