The 787 Dreamliner and Composite Materials
The airline industry has a serious problem, and the 787 Dreamliner might be the answer. The price of jet fuel is steep and very volatile, making it is extremely important for airplanes to weigh less. The use of composite materials and advanced processing will allow Boeing's 787 Dreamliner to shed pounds and save the airlines millions of dollars in fuel costs.
Evolution of Materials
Long before the thought of the 787 Dreamliner, the Wright Brothers first airplane was made from wood because it is a lightweight yet strong material and readily available. Wooden ribs had stretched canvas to form wings. However, wood degrades over time, has quality control issues, and absorbs water.
As the world industrialized, the use of wood in aerospace gave way to the use of metals where lightweight aluminum became the norm. Aluminum is lightweight, strong, fire-resistant and relatively easy to manufacture.
Composites, and in particular, carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites (CFRP), have the ability to replace aluminum as they weigh less per unit of strength. However, there are many considerable hurdles to overcome for aerospace acceptance of composite materials.
787 Dreamliner - Composite Hurdles
Before the 787 Dreamliner can become a reality, composite materials must pass strict aerospace acceptance tests. Not only must they meet the strict structural demands, they must also pass:
Fire, Smoke, and Toxicity (FST) Tests.
The composite materials must withstand a certain temperature and if lit on fire, the flame must spread slowly. Additionally, when the composite material burns, it cannot produce smoke and toxic fumes.
Composite materials on the 787 Dreamliner must be impervious to a wide range of chemicals that could be found on an airplane such as fuel and hydraulic fluid.
The composite materials must work in below freezing to extremely hot temperatures, and the structural performance must be the same.
The composite materials used in aerospace must not absorb moisture.
Manufacturing Quality Control
When manufacturing components for the Dreamliner, each part must follow strict quality assurance procedures and inspections.
787 Dreamliner - Benefits of Composites
Not only will the use of composites help save fuel on the Dreamliner, but there will be benefits to the passengers as well. In particular, the 787 will be much more comfortable to fly in. Due to the properties of composites, airlines will be able to increase cabin pressure and increase the cabin humidity. This may sound like a small difference, must an increase in humidity will dramatically increase the comfort and prevent jet leg.
Additionally, the 787 Dreamliner will be the most amazing advancements and increase the acceptance of composite materials. People all across the world will see and feel the benefits first hand like never before. Once the world's population experiences the benefits of composites the demand will continue to grow and cross into other industries.