Haydale joins NATEP to develop electrically conductive enhanced composites for aircraft

Haydale Composite Solutions Ltd has entered into an 18 month research project awarded and managed by the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP).

Carbon fibre composites are used in aircraft applications such as fuselages, leading edges and wing surfaces. However, because the carbon fibre reinforced epoxy composite materials are poor conductors of electricity they are prone to damage from lightning strike. This has led to aircraft companies incorporating copper or aluminium meshes into the composite materials which add significant weight and cost.

The electrical conductivity of graphene enhanced composites has already been established. The aim of this project is to develop highly electrically conductive epoxy resins through the addition of functionalised graphene which, when combined with conductive carbon fibre, is expected to result in a highly conductive carbon fibre reinforced epoxy composite material capable of withstanding lightning strike in its own right. The development of such a material would result in safer aircraft, weight and cost savings from the elimination of the expensive metallic meshes as well as eliminating time associated with integrating the meshes into the structure.

Bridget Day, NATEP deputy programme director commented "We are delighted to welcome Haydale into the NATEP programme. It is particularly pleasing to assist them with a practical application that uses the exciting properties of graphene in the aerospace industry. We see this as having a high potential for jobs growth and exports.”

Ray Gibbs, Haydale Chief Executive added " The support of NATEP is very welcome as it will accelerate our research in this area and enable us to collaborate with leading aerospace companies to develop new materials and structures at the forefront of emerging technology."