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News

New aircraft material based upon clay, nylon and glass

Delft University Of Technology : 02 December, 2006  (New Product)
A combination of minute particles of clay, nylon and glass fibres has produced a new material with potential uses in such areas as aircraft construction. This discovery has been made by researcher Dani
After the success of the aircraft construction material Glare, Delft has again developed an interesting composite-based technology. These materials are made up of a combination of components, such as plastics, glass and metals.

Vlasveld has discovered that combining small particles of clay (nanoclay) with the plastic polyamide 6 (better known as nylon) forms an interesting basis for fibre composites. Together, the two components form a so-called nanocomposite. To produce the final material, layers of that are alternated with layers of glass fibre and pressed together at high temperature.

Adding the clay 'platelets' to the polyamide doubles the material's rigidity, as well as making it useable at a much higher temperature than is usual for polyamide composites. The platelets are about 1 nanometre thick and 100 nanometres in both length and breadth.

Adding nanoclay increases compression strength, until now the weak point of fibre-reinforced composites, by up to 40 per cent. The presence of clay particles also reduces the moisture-sensitivity of polyamide 6.

As well as uses in the manufacture of wind-turbine blades, Vlasveld believes that the new material offers great potential for the aircraft industry. That has traditionally viewed polyamide as low-value polymer, but the addition of clay makes more applications conceivable.

Delft University of Technology is now going to try out the new fibre-reinforced nanocomposite in its own test aircraft, the Eaglet. The first part to be made from the innovative material is the rudder, which will be built, fitted and tested next year.
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