Editorial Feature

The Involvement Of Nanotechnology In The Aerospace And Defence Industries

Nanotechnology has a wide range of implications for the aerospace and defence industry, potentially providing stronger, lighter materials, smaller computer components and new sensor technologies. Virtual reality systems based on nanostructured electronics could enable more affordable, effective training. Enhanced automation and robotics could offset reductions in military manpower, reduce risks to troops, and improve vehicle performance. Higher performance (lighter weight and higher strength) military platforms would provide diminished failure rates and lower life-cycle costs.

Chemical And Biological Nuclear Sensing

There will also be improvements in chemical/biological/nuclear sensing and in casualty care. From a battlefield perspective, new realms of clothing are possible, such as smooth, strong fabrics; sensory enhanced garments of nanofibres; chameleon-like camouflage that interacts with the environment; clothing that changes reflectivity and insulation; and protective clothing that can absorb or reject chemical agents or toxins. The United States, in particular, is making a large investment in this area.

Nanotechnology Involvement In The Aerospace Industry

In aerospace, the stringent fuel constraints for lifting payloads into earth orbit and beyond, and the desire to send spacecraft away from the sun for extended missions (where solar power would be greatly diminished) compel continued reduction in size, weight, and power consumption of payloads. Nanostructured materials and devices promise solutions to these challenges. Nanostructuring will also prove critical to the design and manufacture of lightweight, high-strength, thermally stable materials for aircraft, rockets, space stations, and planetary/solar exploratory platforms.

The Current State Of The Aerospace And Defence Markets

The Aerospace & Defence industry includes the manufacture of aircraft and aircraft parts, guided missiles and space vehicles, defence electronics, and other related aerospace/defence components and systems, as well as services such as aircraft repair and maintenance. The space sector is made up of two primary segments: satellites and rocket manufacturing and launch services.

Total Aerospace Spending In The United Kingdom

The aerospace and defence industries are major contributors to the UK economy, through both manufacturing and research into new technologies. In the UK aerospace 2000 it had a turnover of some £18.25bn, and was responsible for 12% of the UK’s manufacturing research spending (Department of Trade and Industry). Boeing forecasts market of $3 100bn over next 20 years for aviation support services alone including:

•        $1 500bn for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul

•        $930bn for airport and route infrastructure services

•        $460bn for aircraft servicing

•        $150bn for major aircraft modification

Global Commercial Industry Spending

The global commercial aerospace industry currently has very few prime contractors that manufacture aircraft and engines. The American firm Boeing has about 70% of the worldwide market for planes seating more than eighty passengers. Airbus, a consortium of English, French, German, and Spanish firms, has been gaining rapidly and currently holds the remaining 30% of the large aircraft market. Only three companies manufacture airplane engines, which account for about 20% of the value of advanced aircraft. U.S.-based Pratt & Whitney and General Electric run neck and neck for the market lead and Rolls Royce in England runs a strong third.

Prime Contractors Involved Within The Industry

There are more prime contractors involved in the smaller-size market for commuter and executive aircraft and engines, but the number of competitors is still quite small. In addition to the prime contractors, the global aerospace industry has numerous medium- and small-sized suppliers of components and subsystems.

Primary author: Institute of Nanotechnology

Source: Introduction to Nanotechnology CD ROM

Uploaded March 2004

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