Nano-enhanced Multifunctional Composite Aerostructures

6 August 2018 - 11:00am to 12:00pm
Ainsworth Building J17, Level 4, Room 405A

Professor Brian G. Falzon

Head of School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast 

— All Welcome —


On average, air traffic has doubled every fifteen years over the past few decades. Global market forecasts, by major aircraft manufacturers, predict that in twenty years’ times, there will be a requirement for anywhere between 35,000 to 40,000 new passenger and freight aircraft, two thirds of which will be necessary to meet the expected growth, and the remainder to replace aging aircraft. Concomitant with this, are increasingly stringent intergovernmental targets to reduce environmental impact associated with transportation. For example, the European Union has set an aspirational 2050 target of reducing CO2 emissions by 75% and NOx emissions by 90% with respect to the year 2000 baseline. Consequently, weight reduction will continue to play a key role in the development of new aircraft structures and the ‘all carbon-fibre composite’ wide-body passenger aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787, is likely to continue to dominate the market in the foreseeable future. Composite materials also have the added advantage of superior corrosion resistance and fatigue performance over their aluminium comparator.

Nonetheless, the extensive use of composites has brought with it its own set of challenges. In laminated form, these superior properties are tempered by the material's relatively low through-thickness strength and fracture toughness which make composite structures susceptible to delamination. Compounded by a preference for bonded, as opposed to mechanically fastened, structural sub-components, this has motivated the research community to explore interlaminar toughening and in-situ structural health monitoring. Carbon-fibre reinforced epoxy composites have low electrical conductivity which necessitates the need for additional measures to ensure adequate lightning strike protection. The industry has adopted the use of a metallic mesh incorporated into the aerodynamic surfaces. This approach adds unnecessary weight to the structure and increases manufacturing and maintenance complexity. Composite materials also have low thermal conductivity which impacts on the design of anti-icing systems.

A number of studies have focussed on the utilisation of carbon-nanotubes (CNTs), dispersed in the epoxy matrix, to overcome these shortcomings and the results have been highly variable. The Advanced Composites Research Group, at Queen’s University Belfast, is pursuing the development of multifunctional hierarchical composite aerostructures utilising the combined properties of different carbon nanotube (CNT) assemblies. This talk will present current work in the development of nano-enhanced composites with highly tunable CNT-based heating elements for anti-icing/de-icing applications, structural health monitoring using an embedded CNT web, the challenges in providing integrated lightning strike protection and strategies for the functionalisation of CNT assemblies for improved compatibility with epoxy resins.


Professor Brian G. Falzon is the Head of School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast and was the Royal Academy of Engineering – Bombardier Chair in Aerospace Composites (2013-2017). He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Between 2008 and 2012 he was the Foundation Chair in Aerospace Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he was also Director of Research and Head of the Aerospace Engineering programmes. Between 1996 and 2008, Prof Falzon was at Imperial College London where he joined as a postdoctoral research fellow before becoming an academic staff member. He has held visiting professorships at both Imperial College London and Monash University. Prof Falzon graduated with a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Sydney in 1996 and was awarded the Golden Jubilee graduate prize for his research into postbuckling composite aerostructures. He also gained a Bachelor of Engineering in Aeronautical Engineering with first class honours and a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Physics and Pure Mathematics from the same University.

Prof Falzon is the Director of the Advanced Composites Research Group at Queen’s and is internationally renowned for his work on the computational analysis, design, manufacture and testing of advanced composite aerostructures and has published over 160 peer reviewed journal/conference papers and book chapters, one book, and edited three others. He has fostered extensive industry and academic collaborations with partners from Europe, Australia, India and China and is currently coordinating a H2020 research programme with fourteen academic and industry partners across six EU member states.

In 2008 Prof Falzon was awarded the George Taylor Prize by the Royal Aeronautical Society for the best paper published in 2007 in the design, construction, production and fabrication of aircraft structures. In 2009 he was honoured with an Australian Leadership Award, in recognition of his contribution to issues of national importance and demonstrated leadership in his field. He is a Chartered Engineer, a member of a number of professional organisations and scientific committees, and sits on the Editorial Board of three journals. Prof Falzon is also co-founder of Veryan Medical Limited, a company spin-off from Imperial College London, developing a new vascular biomimetic stent.

NEW BOOK: Buckling and Postbuckling Structures II: Experimental, Analytical and Numerical Studies

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