Aerospace is defined as the earth’s atmosphere or the space beyond and thus encompasses a range of travel parameters. Flight within the earth’s atmosphere can include airline travel, or more specialist defence flights, and even zeppelins and hot air balloons. Wider travel outside of the earth’s atmosphere includes manned and unmanned space missions and a wide range of crafts from satellites to exploratory rovers.
Given the scope of the Aerospace industry technical textiles play a wide variety of roles. Their use in the craft structure is often in the form of composites which are a technical fibre, such as carbon, woven into a fabric and then set in a resin to create a tough component with a low weigh, also having very good heat and fire resistance. Textiles may also be used as filters or for reinforcement in hose’s or tyres.
They fulfil specialist roles for Technical Apparel and Personal Protective equipment, such as the G-suits worn by defence pilots which are required to inflate and put pressure on the pilots body to maintain blood flow and prevent the pilot from blacking out in flight. Space suits have very different technical requirements, being designed to protect the wearer from pressure changes, extreme temperature changes, whilst allowing a flow of oxygen, removal of carbon dioxide and not restricting movement.
Perhaps an essential part of flight is that of landing and textiles are required to perform in this role as parachutes bringing the wearer safely back to earth. However, as recently demonstrated by the Mars Curiosity rover, parachutes are not limited to human wear, as the parachute was a crucial component to the rovers landing.
The below video looks at the testing of the Mars Curiosity parachute:
The following presentation is very informative on the topic of application of textiles in Aerospace;
Aerospace is one of the UK's highest value adding manufacturing sectors. The UK is home to Europe's largest aerospace industry and the second largest, after the USA, in the world. (Source; UKTI) (link to; http://www.ukti.gov.uk/export/sectors/advancedengineering/aerospace.html
Figure 1. Demonstrates the components value as a % of aircraft value. From Aerospace Global Report 2011
Figure 1 depicts the Airframe as the component with the biggest percentage of aircraft value. Figure 2 depicts the use of composites in a F/A=18 craft, where it is clear that composites of carbon in an Epoxy resin make up for the most part of the crafts airframe. However, it is also illustrated in figure 2 the benefits of composites in terms of weight ratio, given the large areas where the carbon epoxy composite is used, it still only accounts for 10% or 19% of the structural weight
Figure 2. Displays use of materials in structure to percentage of structural weight. From Composites in Aerospace Applications, White Paper
The European Unions Observatory nano, 2012 factsheet claims that in the Aerospace, Automotive and transport sectors the all-important challenge is that of CO2 emission reduction, which leads to several key derivative challenges that can be summarized by weight reduction, drive train efficiency gain and electric car battery economics.
(http://www.observatorynano.eu/project/filesystem/files/ObservatoryNANO%20Factsheets%202012.pdf ) . Thus the pursuit of composite materials to reduce weight continues to be an area of exploration. The Observatory Nano factsheet, highlights nano-composites and nanostructured metals as a possible solution.
Aircraft Textiles, Textile Media Services
Aerospace Global Report 2011 (pdf)
House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee, The UK Aerospace Industry, 2005
Wright Industry Averages, Aerospace and Airlines (Europe), 2011.
The ObservatoryNANO - supports European policy makers through the provision of wide-ranging scientific and economic analysis of nanoscience and nanotechnology developments, which is further supported by assessment of ethical and societal aspects, impacts on environment, health and safety, as well as developments in regulation and standardisation.
Their sector report on Aerospace, Automotive and Transport, outlines possibilities for the adoption of nanoscience within the sector.