Materials in Aerospace

Materials in Aerospace

MM3AET Coursework 2015-16
Recent Aerospace Technology Development


An Introduction to Materials in Aviation
Materials have always been a significant part of aviation. Four decades ago, aluminium dominated the aerospace industry and was regarded as the breakthrough development in material technology. Aluminium was considered to be light, affordable, and modern. In fact, aluminium used to make up 70 percent of the material composition of an aircraft. Lesser known materials, like alloys and composites were used as well, but were not used as commonly as aluminium. Fiberglass, graphite, and alloys of titanium, just to name a few, can be found in small traces, from around 3 percent here and 7 percent there. Due to its availability in abundance, aluminium was used throughout the body, starting from the fuselage to even the main engine components.
In the year 1930, some of the first few full body metal airplanes know to men were built by Boeing. Existing wood or fabric versions were no match for the superior strength and aerodynamics shown by full body metal airplanes. Almost a decade later, the first fully-pressurised airliner came about thanks to Boeing’s technology, the propeller powered 307 Stratoliner. During the 1950s, Boeing and its engine makers made use of material technologies developed during World War II to build the first commercial jetliner, the 707, which was deemed a success. Passenger jets were built of common metals such as aluminium and steel. In the year 1974, European upstart Airbus pushed the limits of technology with a composite rudder on its pioneering plane, the A300. Plane manufacturers have been progressively increasing their dependence on high end materials that are lighter, stronger and more corrosion proof than their preceding metals.

Figure 1: The 307 Stratoliner in full flight

On the contrary, most jets today...

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