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GKN Aerospace Progresses Composite Damage Detection

03 April 2012

GKN Aerospace researchers at the company’s UK facility, Luton, are working with a team at the University of Bristol, UK, on an 18 month programme to explore advanced coatings chemistries that will accurately indicate the existence and extent of damage in composite structure.

John Cornforth, Head of Technology, GKN Aerospace explains "As the proportion of the airframe that is composite structure grows, the ability to reliably and swiftly identify damage and understand its extent becomes ever more critical to an effective repair procedure. However, composite damage can be hard to spot with the naked eye as this material has the ability to appear to ‘recover’ post-impact."

According to GKN Aerospace, their new coating will contain smart microspheres which will signal in the ultra-violet visible spectrum when damage has occurred. Careful design of the microspheres will mean the coating is able to provide a signature reflecting different energy levels, indicating the extent and level of damage to trained maintenance staff.

In this research activity, GKN Aerospace say they are exploiting both the intelligent coatings expertise contained within its market-leading aircraft transparencies business and its experience in complex composite structure design and manufacture.

Cornforth concludes "We commenced this research activity with Bristol University just last year and already results are very promising. We believe this coating has the potential to make damage detection far easier across all types of composite structure and in difficult, real world, operating conditions."





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