A prototype micro air vehicle (MAV) superstructure made from carbon nanotube (CNT) fibres, which could eventually act as a source of power and provide a morphing capability, has been built at the University of Texas in Dallas.

The properties of CNT fibres can be used to overcome the limitations of MAVs, say researchers. Benefits include energy storage, delivery of power to motors and low weight. The electrical properties of CNT mean the superstructure could act as a capacitor to deliver energy quickly from onboard batteries.

Dr Ray Baughman, who leads the work, expects much greater capabilities in future with CNT fibres. He says: "The fibres in the shell of an MAV might be used to provide a morphing capability, to control flight performance by bending or twisting during manoeuvres." The manufacturing process involves injecting the carbon nanotubes into a pipe filled with polyvinyl alcohol to form a gel. This is then spun out into 100m (330ft) strands. Many of those strands are then taken and wrapped around the MAV model, which acts as a mandrel.

Source: Flight International