In order to improve aircraft efficiency and to decrease fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, innovative light weight polymer composite materials with superior mechanical properties for advanced aircraft structures are in development.
As an ultimate goal such new lightweight materials should also enable advanced integration of additional functionalities. Current functional aircraft components are designed separately and integrated afterwards. A future advanced integrative manufacturing approach is leading to fewer but also more complex parts with multiple functions resulting in better energy management, aerodynamic efficiency and additional weight reduction.
A candidate for the development of advanced functional lightweight materials and systems with the capability for efficient integration in aircraft structures are thermoelectric de-icing systems essential for aircraft safety by avoiding in-flight icing. State-of-the-art systems consist of metal or composite structural aircraft components coated with polymers containing a high amount of graphite and carbon black particles in order to enable sufficient electrical conductivity required for efficient de-icing applications. The high amount of non-polymer particles deteriorates the advantageous mechanical properties of high strength polymers making such systems unsuitable for an integrative approach.
In order to realise a future integrative approach structural components can be modified by graphene additives in order to improve electrical and thermal conductivity, toughness/damage tolerance and the formation of an efficient vapor/liquid barrier. It is therefore promising to investigate and develop graphene materials based composites for their potential use in thermoelectrical de-icing, lightning strike protection, fire and water barrier systems with the ultimate goal of reaching higher integrated components. Depending on modification and structure of graphene material there is a potential to enhance mechanical properties.