Material of the day: Central Reinforced Aluminum Austin Toft

Today's material of the day is central reinforced aluminum or CentrAl. CentrAl is a cutting edge material that is revolutionizing the world of aircraft design and maintenance. This material has a higher tensile strength than other high- strength aluminum alloys and is extremely fatigue and damage resistant. This is due to the structure of the fiber metal laminate (FML) which we will discuss shortly.

As an aerospace engineering major I am obviously interested in the design of aircraft. However, I am not very interested in actually designing planes or being an engineer at all. Upon graduation from college, I will be entering the Air Force and plan to become a pilot. One of the planes that I am interested in flying is the C-130. Central reinforced aluminum is being considered as a replacement to some parts of these planes to cut down tremendously on maintenance costs.

What is Central reinforced Aluminum?

CentrAl gets its strength from its design as a fiber metal laminate. The material is made up of layers of glass fiber/epoxy between layers of Aluminum. Between the layers of Aluminum and epoxy are layers of BondPreg, a fibrous material that is impregnated with a resin.

Design of a fiber metal laminate

This layering system allows the stress to be dissipated and spread evenly throughout the laminate. In tests simulating crack fatigue on aircraft wings, CentrAl preformed up from 10 to 100 times better than normal aluminum, even at stresses up to 25% higher than those imposed on it. This is due to the incorporation of the nonmetal materials sandwiched in between the aluminum. They act as shock absorbers and better distribute the force amongst the material than normal aluminum.

CentrAl layer design

The material is also much lighter than conventional aluminum and even many carbon fiber composites that are currently used in aircraft design. This, again, is a product of the layering of non-metal material in between the aluminum. It lowers the overall weight of the material while increasing the strength which makes it perfect for aircraft. If the wings of a C-130 were constructed of CentrAl, it is estimated that it would reduce the overall weight of the aircraft by up to 20 percent.

Conclusion

This material possesses unique characteristics that offer a potentially large benefit to the world of aircraft design. Being a fiber metal laminate, it has the ability to distribute force better, which in turn makes the material stronger. This could lead to many benefits, one being a large decrease in the amount of costly maintenance done on aircraft.

Refrences

1. Chris Kjelgaard "New Material Could Revolutionize Aircraft Maintenance"

2. Atlas Group "Latest Materials Used for Aircraft Manufacturing"

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