Material used in Aerospace Industry
The aerospace industry is one of the most advanced and demanding industries in the world, requiring materials that can withstand extreme conditions while maintaining their strength, durability, and safety.
From the earliest days of aviation to the present, materials have played a crucial role in the design, manufacture, and operation of aircraft and spacecraft.
The materials used in aerospace applications are diverse and constantly evolving, driven by the need to improve performance, reduce weight, increase efficiency, and enhance safety.
In this blog article, we will explore the materials used in aerospace, their properties, advantages, and limitations, aerospace standards and material selection guidelines.
What are the Materials used in aerospace industry?
The aerospace industry uses a wide range of materials, each with its unique properties, advantages, and limitations.
Some of the most common materials used in aerospace applications include:
- Aluminum: Lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant, aluminum is a popular choice for aerospace structures, particularly for aircraft frames and wings.
- Titanium: Known for its strength-to-weight ratio, titanium is used in aircraft engines, landing gear, and other critical components.
- Carbon Fiber Composites: Carbon fiber composites offer high strength, low weight, and resistance to fatigue, making them ideal for aircraft structures, such as wings and fuselages.
- Steel: Steel is used in various aerospace components such as landing gear, engine parts, and structural supports due to its high strength, durability, and corrosion resistance.
- Ceramic Matrix Composites: Ceramic matrix composites have high-temperature capabilities, making them suitable for use in aircraft engines, brakes, and thermal protection systems.
- Nickel-based alloys: These alloys have high strength, corrosion resistance, and heat resistance, making them ideal for use in jet engine components.
- Polymer-based materials: These materials are used in a variety of aerospace applications, including coatings, adhesives, and insulation.
The choice of materials depends on various factors such as the specific application, performance requirements, environmental conditions, and cost.
In recent years, there has been a growing focus on developing new materials and manufacturing processes to enhance aerospace performance and safety, reduce weight, and minimize environmental impact.
Material used in aerospace industry with example grades
Here are some examples of materials used in the aerospace industry and their specific grades:
- Aluminum 2024-T3: used for aircraft structural components such as wings and fuselage skins.
- Aluminum 7075-T6: used for high-stress structural components such as landing gear and wing spars.
- Titanium Grade 5 (Ti-6Al-4V): used for aircraft engine components, landing gear, and airframe structures.
- Titanium Grade 2: used for non-critical components such as fasteners and fittings.
Carbon fiber composites:
- Hexcel IM7 carbon fiber: used for high-performance aerospace applications such as wings and fuselages.
- Toray T800 carbon fiber: used for aircraft structural components due to its high strength and low weight.
- 300M steel: used for landing gear components due to its high strength and toughness.
- 17-4 PH stainless steel: used for engine components such as turbine blades.
Ceramic matrix composites:
SiC/SiC ceramic matrix composites: used for high-temperature aerospace applications such as aircraft engine components and thermal protection systems.
- Inconel 718: used for aircraft engine components such as turbine discs and compressor blades due to its high strength and corrosion resistance.
- Haynes 282: used for turbine engine components due to its high-temperature capabilities and creep resistance.
These are just a few examples of the materials and grades used in aerospace applications. There are many more materials and alloys used, and the selection of the specific grade depends on the specific application requirements.
Guidelines for aerospace materials selection
Selecting materials for aerospace applications is a critical process that requires careful consideration of numerous factors, including performance requirements, environmental conditions, weight, cost, and safety.
Here are some guidelines for aerospace materials selection:
- Performance requirements: The material must meet the specific performance requirements of the application, such as strength, stiffness, fatigue resistance, and corrosion resistance.
- Environmental conditions: The material must be able to withstand the environmental conditions of the application, such as temperature, pressure, and exposure to chemicals or radiation.
- Weight: Weight is a critical factor in aerospace applications, and materials must be selected that provide the required strength and durability while minimizing weight.
- Cost: The material cost is an important consideration, and the selection of materials must balance the performance requirements with the overall cost of the project.
- Safety: Safety is paramount in aerospace applications, and materials must be selected that meet strict safety standards and have a proven track record of reliability and performance.
- Availability: The availability of the material is also a crucial factor, as the material must be readily available and accessible for production and maintenance.
- Sustainability: The aerospace industry is increasingly focused on sustainability, and materials that have a minimal environmental impact, are recyclable or biodegradable, and have a long service life are preferred.
Aerospace material standards
There are several material standards used in the aerospace industry to ensure the quality, performance, and safety of materials used in aircraft and spacecraft. The main aerospace material standards are:
- AMS (Aerospace Material Specifications): AMS covers a wide range of materials used in the aerospace industry, including metals, composites, plastics, and adhesives. AMS specifications cover material properties, testing, processing, and quality control.
- ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials): ASTM develops standards for materials used in many industries, including aerospace. ASTM standards cover materials such as metals, plastics, composites, and ceramics, and include requirements for material properties, testing, and quality control.
- MIL-SPEC (Military Specifications): MIL-SPEC covers materials used in military aerospace applications, including metals, plastics, and composites. MIL-SPEC standards include requirements for material properties, testing, processing, and quality control.
- AS (Aerospace Standards): AS standards cover materials used in the aerospace industry, including metals, composites, plastics, and adhesives. AS standards include requirements for material properties, testing, processing, and quality control.
- NADCAP (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program): NADCAP is a global accreditation program for aerospace material suppliers. NADCAP accreditation ensures that suppliers meet strict quality and performance standards for materials used in aerospace applications.
- ISO (International Organization for Standardization): ISO develops standards for many industries, including aerospace. ISO standards cover material properties, testing, processing, and quality control, and are widely used in the aerospace industry.
Aerospace material properties
Aerospace materials are required to have specific properties to meet the demanding requirements of the aerospace industry. Here are some of the key material properties required in aerospace applications:
- Strength: Aerospace materials must have high strength to withstand the high stresses and loads experienced during flight and to ensure the safety of the aircraft or spacecraft.
- Stiffness: Aerospace materials must have high stiffness to maintain their shape and resist deformation under load, which helps to maintain the structural integrity of the aircraft or spacecraft.
- Fatigue resistance: Aerospace materials must have good fatigue resistance to withstand the repeated loading and unloading that occurs during flight and to ensure the long-term durability of the aircraft or spacecraft.
- Corrosion resistance: Aerospace materials must have good corrosion resistance to protect against the harsh environmental conditions experienced during flight, such as exposure to saltwater, humidity, and chemicals.
- Heat resistance: Aerospace materials must have good heat resistance to withstand the high temperatures experienced during flight and to prevent damage to the aircraft or spacecraft.
- Low thermal expansion: Aerospace materials must have low thermal expansion to minimize the risk of dimensional changes due to temperature fluctuations, which can cause stress and deformation in the material.
- Low density: Aerospace materials must have low density to reduce the weight of the aircraft or spacecraft, which can improve fuel efficiency and increase the payload capacity.
- Electrical conductivity: Aerospace materials must have specific electrical conductivity properties to meet the requirements of the electronic systems used in aircraft or spacecraft.
- Wear resistance: Aerospace materials must have good wear resistance to withstand the friction and wear experienced during flight, especially in moving parts such as engines and landing gear.
In conclusion, selecting the right material for aerospace applications requires a thorough understanding of the performance requirements, environmental conditions, weight, cost, safety, availability, and sustainability considerations.
It is a complex process that requires collaboration between engineers, materials experts, and suppliers to ensure that the material selected meets all the requirements and delivers the required performance and reliability.