National Physical Laboratory

Manufacturing stronger aircraft materials

A new high-temperature solid particle erosion (HTSPE) test facility at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the benefits it offers the aircraft industry are featured in Aerospace Testing International magazine.

HTSPE testing of materials used to make aircraft is invaluable to the aviation industry, enabling manufacturers to assess resistance to particle erosion and ensure aircraft safety. In 2010, following the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, concerns over the hazardous impacts of ejected ash on aircraft safety caused the largest grounding of aircraft since World War II, with controlled airspace across much of Europe intermittently closing for six days. This shutdown cost £1.1bn, quantifying the knock-on impact particulate erosion can have on the aviation industry and highlighting the need to better understand and limit its effects.

However, there are few facilities available worldwide for the measurement of HTSPE and those that are available are limited in terms of particle velocity and temperature, the uncertainties associated with the measurements undertaken during the test, and their applicability to real industrial applications.

Researchers at NPL have overcome these limitations and can now provide industry with the tools needed to understand and ameliorate the effects of HTSPE, as part of the European Metrology Research Programme. The project brought together several measurement techniques into one highly-efficient HTSPE system designed to operate at 900 °C and with particle velocities up to 300 metres per second.

The improved measurements offered by the system can subsequently enhance material scientists' understanding of material performance and mechanistic modelling, driving innovation, improving system performance and enabling industry to develop better aircraft with higher resistance to HTSPE damage.

Another key advancement for HTSPE testing brought about by the system is the drastic reduction in time required to conduct a test. While a test with a total exposure time of thirty minutes to erosion by particles at high temperature previously took most of a week to conduct, this new method has cut the test time down to being completed within an hour and a half. This capability could help manufacturers design better aircraft in a much shorter time.

Read the full article in Aerospace Testing International

Find out more about NPL's Advanced Materials research

For more information, contact Tony Fry

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Last Updated: 2 Feb 2017
Created: 2 Feb 2017


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