Have engineers found a way to make greener aeroplanes?

Engineers at MIT have discovered a manufacturing method that will make flying greener than ever before.

The researchers found a way of creating aerospace-grade carbon-fibre composites using only 1% of the energy of current methods, and none of the ovens and autoclaves.

It was found that the carbon nanotubes can fuse the composite materials for aeroplanes by being used “like an electric blanket.”

Up until now, fusing these materials together securely would require the use of giant ovens and industrial pressure chambers. The work done by the MIT engineers not only eliminates the need for these machines but it also means that the whole process can be sped up.

According to Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, the latest results show a composite "as strong as the gold-standard autoclave process composite used for primary aerospace structures.”

"Beyond airplanes, most of the composite production in the world is composite pipes, for water, gas, oil, all the things that go in and out of our lives. This could make making all those things, without the oven and autoclave infrastructure, possible,” he said.

The researchers’ next task will be to scale up the pressure-generating carbon nanotube. Up until now, all of the experiments have involved samples that are only a few centimetres wide. Now, they’ll try to use one big enough to tackle industrial equipment.

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