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The Use of Composite Materials Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 29th, 2022

Abstract

The use of composite made materials is gaining popularity among various sectors of economy and especially in the aviation industry where modern fleets are being manufactured. Their world wide use has made people gain confidence in them because previously they were being considered as not being air worthy. This paper highlights some of the peoples’ opinion on this matter from both schools of thought; that is those who oppose it and those in its favor. This paper has zeroed in on the entire aviation industry in the world without paying any particular attention to a specific airline. The paper has also looked at some of the areas/ issues that need to be addressed by the concerned parties to improve and sustain this industry.

Introduction

Since the Wright brothers discovered that flying objects could be manufactured in the early 20th century, numerous invention have followed that have made air transport more convenient and safe to use. This mode of transport has not only revolutionized the movement of goods and people but it has also reduced the distance between places literally. That is, one can easily move from London and within a period of about ten hours he or she will be in New York and vice versa. In an attempt to control and regulate the air transport sector, there are a number of organizations that have been formed by the airline companies. For instance, there is the IATA –International Air Transport Association which has been credited for formulating rules and regulations that have continued to govern the aviation industry.

Methodology

The information presented in this paper was gathered from secondary sources and there is no formal research that was carried out. However, although it has been observed that these sources do not provide firsthand experience on the matter, it has been regarded as useful and important mainly because the people who wrote them are well versed with the technology being addressed in the paper.

Findings

Historical context of the technology

According to a research carried out by Kool (1996), in the past, gas temperatures were relatively low compared to the modern day engines. He realized that in the past decades, most of the research concerning this topic had been a reserve of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He points out that National Aeronautics and Space Administration used to zero in on how the gas turbines blades and the rocket engine walls could be protected from corrosion. He notes that prior to this idea of protecting such parts, it had been observed that the temperatures on the blade used to go very high after some hours in operations. To him, this was something of great concern to the engine makers and therefore a quick solution to this had to be found.

Current state of the technology

Carlton (2008, p 321) found out that in the modern day, world gas turbines engine have been modified and that some of the issues raised in the past like heating up very quickly have become a thing of the past. According to Carlton, scientists have made significant improvements in that they have been able to increase the amount of gas temperature in the turbine airfoil. According to St. Peter and United States Air Force (1999), this concept is made possible by the fact that scientists have managed to make an alloy that has the ability to resist creep as well as oxidation. Scientists have also improved their way of casting them which has enhanced the cooling effect, and movement from cast alloy blades to single crystal blades. Therefore, Treager (2007) asserts that the modern gas turbines engines consist of a number of features that include a bond coat that is responsible for shielding the engine from oxidation, a strong metal substrate that is designed to offer more strength to the whole structure, an external ceramic cover that acts as an insulator to the whole structure and finally the thermally grown oxide that is strategically placed in between the ceramic cover and the bond coat as a result of high temperature oxidation of the thermal insulation.

Advantages of composite materials in aerospace gas turbines

Leyes and Fleming (1999) found that there are a number of advantages of using the composite materials in an aero plane gas turbine. At first, he points out that, composite materials are very strong compared to steel structures. He notes that the strength feature is responsible for the engines continued performance despite it working for long hours. As was the case in the initial years when the engine blades used to record high temperatures, composite made gas turbine engines have been observed to maintain stable temperature despite the work load put on them thus making them strong. In addition he states that composite materials are good conductors of heat and electricity compared to the previously preferred copper. This makes the transmission of power within the plane itself fast and efficient. As a result, use of copper in many areas besides the aviation industry is quickly diminishing whereas use of composite materials is rapidly rising.

According to Unger and Herzog (1998), composite materials have been found to be of low density. As a result, the overall weight of the entire aero becomes less and therefore it can carry more cargo and passengers hence helping the airline owners make more money in terms of profit. He argues that unlike in the past where the body parts were made of heavy metals, composite materials are very light thus reducing the average weight of the plane. Besides that, he argues that composite materials are very easy to shape and this reduces by a great extent the number of joints found in the entire aircraft. This means that any part of the aircraft can be shaped in any way that the manufacturer wants it to be and therefore reduces wastage of time on a single part of the aero plane.

Langston, University of Connecticut and Opdyke (1997) points out those composite materials are very long lasting. As a result, this helps the airline reduce some of the costs that are associated with repairs of the broken or worn out parts. He says that compared to aluminum which has been in use for a long time in the manufacturing of the aero planes body parts, composite materials have been known to last a long time. In the long run, any airline that continues to make use of the aero planes made from aluminum body parts will have to incur an extra cost of maintaining them since they will not last for a long time as the composite materials body parts. In addition, he points out that, the fact that composite materials can be shaped into any part without much strain ensures that less body parts are used in the manufacturing of such an aero plane. In the long run, the cost of building an aero plane becomes low and therefore purchasing one likewise becomes also cheap.

Miller

(1996) argues that unlike in the past when gas turbine engines were made of metals which would be easily corroded, the composite materials aero plane is able to resist corrosion. He says that, this ensures that engines run for a longer time and hence cutting down the costs associated with maintenance. According to him, the composite materials are also in a position to resist damage because of their strength and thus in the same way helps in reducing the cost of maintaining them. This ensures that the company owning such aero planes continues to make profits in its quest to continue operating.

Another advantage associated with composite materials is their ability to with stand high temperatures. According to King (1997), this gave room for greater combustion efficiency that ends up helping in reducing the amount of fuel consumed per flight. He points out this is usually coupled by the fact that composite materials are usually light and of low density. He states that burning the fuel effectively helps in making sure that the rate at which the fuel is consumed is reduced in a big way. He recommends that any one envisaging to join this kind of industry should have thorough understanding of the dynamics involved in order to keep them competitive in this sector that is rapidly changing. He points out that the costs of running this business should not be a barrier since if properly handled the business will pick rapidly.

Disadvantages of composite materials in aerospace gas turbines

Although many academic scholars have put forth cases that have shown that composite materials are the new way to go, there are others who have come out strongly to oppose this move by citing some of the negative things attributed to the adoption of this technology. According to Tolani, Ray and Yang (2006), composite materials are very expensive and therefore make the cost of building a new aero plane high. He points out that unlike the aluminum the composite materials compose of many other elements that make it very hard for some airlines to purchase them. As a result, this may provide unnecessary discrimination in that we find some passengers who may opt to use certain airlines at the expense of others which might be cheaper just because they are aware of the fact that such airlines have not embraced the composite technology in their fleet. He says that plane manufacturers such as Airbus or Boeing should not abandon the production of aluminum made planes at once but rather should ensure that they keep their production low so that there is a peaceful transition from the aluminum made planes to the composite or the fiber made aero planes.

According to Claire (1992 p 146), composite made aero planes may not show any signs of external dents following a collision with other objects especially when it is airborne. As a result he points out that this may lead to serious repercussions because the internal parts may be affected and yet remain unknown. He adds that some airlines may not have qualified personnel to deal with composite materials and therefore in case of such an eventuality, it may be forced to hire other people from outside the country who may provide their services at a very high cost compared to the local ones. In addition he argues that when painting such aero planes, chemical strippers should not be used because they can cause a great harm on such a structure. Moreover, El-Sayed (2008) notes that the process of getting rid of the paint is also expensive since the process has to be mechanical to avoid harming the surfaces.

Future developments

Singh (2009, pg 12) found that engineers should now turn their focus on improving the rate of fuel consumption. He notes that, this point is informed by the fact that jet fuel is a non renewable resource and after certain duration of exploration it will be no more. He points out that such a move would go a long way in reducing the amount charged on passengers as well as cargo from one destination to another.

Wide and bigger aero planes should also be introduced in the market so that the costs of maintaining them become cheap. This is according to Grandt, Jr., Gustafson, and Cargnino (2010) who argues that an airline can own few large fleets which can almost serve the same purpose as the one with many small airplanes. He argues that bigger aircrafts such as Boeing 747 are at an advantage because they can carry many passengers as well as carry huge amounts of cargo. With the introduction of the A380, more people will be able to be uplifted at once hence cutting costs of operating many flights in one route.

Discussion of the findings

From the above findings it is quite evident that humans have been trying hard to make their life better. As already seen, issues of temperatures going up high has worried the experts to a certain extent and this is what led them to inventing the composite made gas turbine engines.

In the current state of the technology, we have found that problems faced in the first phase of development have been overcome and therefore air transport has become a safe and a reliable means. It has become clear that when people share an idea on how to solve a certain problem, they will surely be able to do so as has been witnessed in this sector.

In regards to the merits and the demerits of this project, it has been observed that merits outweighs the demerits and therefore this technology should be embraced by all so as to cut on some of the costs that have been brought about by the previous technology. This means that if the opposite was the case then this technology should be discarded unless proper measures have been put in place.

The world resources are becoming scarce day in day out and therefore, as it has been found out, it is the responsibility of the plane manufacturers to make sure that every time they build a new engine they have the state of our environment at heart so as to make sure future generations will not find resources being exhausted.

Conclusion

Aviation industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and therefore measures need to be taken to make sure that the demands by the clients are not compromised. Engineers should be on toes at all times so that they can invent other ways of satisfying customers’ needs. On the other hand, since venturing into airline business is a very expensive affair, I would recommend that governments should help other entrepreneurs in setting up this kind of business. Elsevier Ltd. (1994) argues that there are some countries that do not have a national carrier and therefore it should be the duty of the sitting government to make sure that funds are set aside to accomplish this. While at school, students should be taught up to date technology other than dwelling more on the past technology. This would go along away in enhancing the students’ ability to reason and contemplate ideas and hence be able to discover new technologies that might be used later on in their career.

Reference list

Carlton, D., 2008. Aircraft engineering and aerospace technology. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Claire, S., 1992. Gas turbines: a handbook of air, land, and sea applications. New York: Springer.

El-Sayed, A. F., 2008. Aircraft propulsion and gas turbine engines. UK: CRC Press.

Elsevier Ltd., 1994. Structural composites in civil gas turbine aero engines. Elsevier Ltd, Volume 5, Issue 2, June 1994, Pages 69-72

Grandt, A.F., Jr., Gustafson, W. A. and Cargnino, L. T., 2010. One Small Step: The History of Aerospace Engineering at Purdue University. West State Street: Purdue University Press.

King, J., 1997. Composites for aero engines. Materials World, Vol. 5 no. 6 pp 324-27.

Kool, G. A., 1996. Current and future materials in advanced gas turbine engines. Journal of Thermal Spray Technology, Volume 5, Number 1, 31-34.

Langston, L. S., University of Connecticut and Opdyke, G., 1997. Enterprises Introduction to Gas Turbines for Non- Engineers. Published in the Global Gas Turbine News, Volume 37: 1997, No. 2, 1-8

Leyes, R.A. and Fleming, W.A., 1999. The history of North American small gas turbine Aircraft Engines. US: AIAA. Miller.

S., 1996. Advanced materials mean advanced engines: An introduction. Abstracted from Materials World, vol. 4, pp. 446-49, 1996.

Singh, J. P., 2009. 21st Annual Conference on Composites, Advanced Ceramics, Materials, and Structures – A: Ceramic Engineering and Science Proceedings. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

St. Peter and United States. Air Force., 1999. The history of aircraft gas turbine Engine Development in the United States: a tradition of excellence. London: International Gas Turbine Inst.

Tolani, D., Ray, A and Yang, Y., 2006. Anomaly Detection in Aircraft Gas Turbine Engines. Journal of Aerospace Computing, Information, and Communication, Vol. 3, February 2006, 44-51.

Treager, I., 2007. Aircraft gas turbine engine technology. New York: Gregg Division, McGraw-Hill,

Unger, D and Herzog, H., 1998. Comparative Study on Energy R&D Performance: Gas Turbine Case Study. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, August, 1998, 1-59.

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