The aerospace sector is targeting significant efficiency increases, reducing fuel consumption and emissions while enhancing safety. Smart and adaptive morphing wings are designed to seamlessly change shape during flight to minimise drag and enhance efficiency. One structural phenomenon that has long been considered undesirable is buckling, which leads to instability and even failure.
The ERC-funded NABUCCO project sees buckling as a design opportunity with potentially pioneering capability. It will harness buckling phenomena in the design and realisation of adaptive composite structures and aircraft morphing wings. Significantly enhanced analytical, optimisation, simulation and test methodologies will account for the expanded design space and ensure safety.
The NABUCCO project aims to develop radically new concepts of adaptive and buckling-driven composite structures for next generation aircraft. In aeronautics, buckling is generally avoided because it causes stiffness reduction, large deformations, and can result in a catastrophic collapse.
Instead, NABUCCO considers buckling no longer as a phenomenon to be avoided, but as a design opportunity to be explored for its ground-breaking potentialities. The idea is to use buckling drawbacks in a positive way, to conceive, design and realize adaptive structures and aircraft morphing wings.
These new, lighter, flexible structures will be designed considering all the potentialities offered by composite materials, thanks also to novel manufacturing processes, and modifying the boundary conditions to govern when buckling occurs and to tune multiple non-traditional post-buckling stable configurations. These structures will be able to adapt their shape during different flight conditions, acting on two of the biggest levers for the future of clean aviation: reduced weight and increased efficiency.
The concepts proposed in NABUCCO will require a step change for what concerns the design, analysis and optimization methodologies, since the design space will be significantly enlarged and the designer will need the ability to identify, manage and control the buckling phenomena. These solutions can be obtained by adopting an integrated design approach established on a multi-disciplinary thinking. A strongly coupled computational-experimental framework will be developed based on novel analytical formulations, artificial intelligence techniques for large multi-objective optimizations, high-fidelity simulation methodologies and advanced test techniques.