Haydale Composite Solutions to evaluate graphene as aircraft lightning strike protector

The 18-month program will evaluate the electrical conductivity of functionalized graphene in a resin matrix for the mitigation in aircraft of electrical current caused by lightning strike.

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Haydale Composite Solutions Ltd. (HCS, Kingston, UK), a subsidiary of graphene specialists Haydale, has entered into a collaborative 18-month research project awarded and managed by the UK National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP).

The goal of the project is to develop highly electrically conductive epoxy resins through the addition of functionalized graphene which, when combined with conductive carbon fiber, is expected to result in a highly conductive carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy composite material capable of withstanding lightning strike in its own right. The development of such a material, says Haydale, would result in safer aircraft and weight and cost savings from the elimination of the expensive metallic meshes as well as the time associated with integrating meshes into the structure.

The project involves two end users: Airbus UK and BAE Systems Plc. Collaborating in the project are Cobham Plc (lightning strike advice and testing), SHD Composites Ltd. (carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy resin prepreg supplier) and HCS (supplier of functionalized graphene-enhanced epoxy resins). NATEP is providing a grant of up to £150,000 towards the £300,000 cost of the research project, of which HCS will receive up to £100,000.

Gerry Boyce, managing director of HCS, says, "The ability to develop electrically conductive epoxy resins by incorporating alternate forms of graphene functionalized by our proprietary HDPlas process is a great opportunity for us. We are very excited about developing highly conductive carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy composite materials and structures that require no additional parasitic lightning strike protection. The ability to add graphene to change one of the fundamental characteristics of the base resin, in this case, electrical conductivity, is a most important development for composite engineers and could lead to a whole new generation of graphene enhanced composite materials."

Ray Gibbs, Haydale chief executive, adds, "At the beginning of June we announced the appointment of Ebbi Shahidi and Quentin Fontana to develop our aerospace division within HCS and I am very pleased with this early, significant development. The support of NATEP is very welcome as it will accelerate our research in this area and enable us to collaborate with leading aerospace companies to develop new materials and structures at the forefront of emerging technology."