Honeycomb shaped advanced composite materials provide high strength-to-weight ratio.

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From the DuPont company website: "For more than 30 years, the transportation industry has embraced honeycomb composite made with DuPont™ Nomex® for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, which helps to provide vital cost-effective benefits like energy savings and payload increases. Stiff, thin Nomex® sheet structures are used to help make strong, yet lightweight, honeycomb sandwich composite found in aircraft parts such flooring panels, interior walls, storage bins, exterior control surfaces, engine nacelles, and helicopter blades and tail booms." "Honeycomb composites made with DuPont™ Kevlar® entered the market about 15 years ago and proved to be the most efficient weight saving solution for the aerospace industry due to even higher specific strength and stiffness compared to DuPont™ Nomex® solutions." (Source: DuPont website) The Nomex® or Kevlar® honeycomb material is typically sandwiched between two layers of carbon fibre sheet or a similar material. Examples: The Airbus A380 airliner uses Nomex® honeycomb extensively in the wing flaps and the doors (see Improved Aircraft Fuel Efficiency with the Airbus A380, including a video). The rotor blades of the AugustaWestland AW101 Merlin helicopter have Nomex® honeycomb cores (see army-technology.com website). The hulls the Volvo 70 yacht class, built for the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, are built with Nomex® and Kevlar® honeycomb composite materials (see reinforcedpastics.com website).

Key Differentiators

From WWII until very recently the surfaces of most commercial aircraft were constructed largely of rivetted aluminium sheet. Composite materials are typically 20% lighter than aluminium, because of their greater strength to weight ratio (Source: Airbus website). A lighter empty aircraft weight means less fuel has to be burnt for a given journey and passenger and/or cargo load. As composite materials are not subject to metal fatigue it is anticipated that composite aircraft will have a longer service life than those built from aluminium.

Biomimicry Story

Nomex® and Kevlar® honeycomb mimic the function, structure, name and colour of the honeycomb structures found in bees and wasps nests.

Challenges Solved

Continuing to improve the strength-to-weight ratio of materials for high performance applications.

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