Air Force look to replace titanium with composites

The development of titanium-replacement materials will be used for engines and aircraft.

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Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Ohio and PROOF Research Advanced Composites Division are working on the development of advanced, high-temperature polymer matrix composites (PMCs) that are used to replace titanium. Applications for these materials exist on the F135 and F110 engines, B-2, F-117 and F-22 aircraft, missile structures and sixth-generation engines. 

As a replacement for titanium structures, high-temperature PMCs offer up to a 40% weight savings resulting in annual fuel savings of hundreds of dollars per kilogram of titanium replaced per aircraft in addition to potential increased service life and improved fatigue resistance.

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program office is providing an additional $750,000 to PROOF ACD (P2SI) to help transition these technologies in support of the Air Force's Technology Program for Integrated Computational Methods for Composite Materials (ICM2). 

"This maturation effort supports the warfighter by providing new capabilities and performance at a reduced cost," said Brent Volk, the AFRL researcher managing the effort. "It completes development of an advanced materials 'toolbox' that includes a higher temperature polyimide matrix composite, a computational process model for the material integrated into a commercial, off-the-shelf software package, validation of the process model on complex geometries, and a materials design-allowable database."

In addition to the SBIR funding, this program leverages more than $1.6 million in funding from industry partners, including Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation and Triumph Aerostructures. These funds will help ensure the SBIR Phase II effort graduates into a program that successfully transitions its technologies into military or private sectors.