Carbon nanotube (CNT) use in composite structures is not delivering the expected advantages after a year of development, according to EADS company Composites Atlantic.

The incorporation of CNT in a composite's matrix had been expected to deliver increases in mechanical strength and damage tolerance.

However, Composites Atlantic's C$30,000 ($29,000) of research into the use of CNT, supplied for free by its manufacturer, has been inconclusive.

"We wanted to see how CNT would benefit the manufacturing process and wanted to validate those benefits," says Composites Atlantic vice-president engineering Claude Baril.

The company is in discussions with the CNT supplier to determine why the nanotubes are not enhancing the performance of composite materials.

Because of the properties of CNT their inclusion in composite structures is viewed by Composites Atlantic as a long-term solution to providing the equivalent of a faraday cage within an aircraft's fuselage for lightning protection.

Other research the company is engaged in is focused on the thermoplastic polyethertherketone, or PEEK, and the improvement of automated fibre placement processes, with the help of the Quebec government's Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec.

Because it is viewed as having better impact resistance, PEEK would replace the epoxy resin that is commonly used. Peek can also be resistance-welded. EADS co-owns Composites Atlantic with the Canadian state of Nova Scotia.

Source: Flight International