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Sustainability assessment of composites in aero-engine components
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Environmental issues such as climate change are leading to important sustainability challenges in the aerospace industry. Composites are light materials that are extensively used to replace metals and reduce the aircraft weight, the goal being to decrease the fuel consumption in flight and limit the emission of greenhouse gases. However, these high performance materials are associated with a complex supply chain including energy-consuming processes. Most of the decommissioned composite products are currently landfilled and nothing proves that the weight reduction allowed by these materials compensates those negative aspects.

The purpose of this master thesis is to determine if the introduction of composites in aero-engines can be sustainable and how it can be achieved. To do so, three polymer-matrix composite components from GKN Aerospace have been studied and compared with their metallic baseline from environmental, social and economic perspectives. Several options for materials selection, manufacturing processes and recycling possibilities have been investigated in the same way.

The assessment on GKN Aerospace’s components showed that the weight savings provided by composites have a strong and positive influence on their sustainability. Component B shows the best results: with 16% of weight savings with composites versus the titanium baseline, it appears clearly that the composite version is the most sustainable one. Component A2 composite version also provides interesting weight savings (14%) but has an aluminum baseline, which makes the composite component more sustainable in some aspects but not all of them, especially economically speaking. Finally, for component A1, the composite version, which does not provide weight savings, is more economically feasible, but quite tight with the titanium baseline on environmental and social aspects. Therefore, it appears that composite components are more likely to be sustainable if they provide significant weight reduction and if the baseline is titanium.

A few strategies would merit attention to make future composite components more sustainable. On the one hand, using thermoplastic composites have potential to reduce the environmental, social and economic impact. In fact, these materials can be fully recycled and reused, present less risks to handle and can be produced for a lower cost. Nevertheless, the knowledge on these materials is more limited than on thermoset composite and the implementation of such a solution will take time. On the second hand, introducing composite recycling processes in the products lifecycle can increase a lot the sustainability of composite components. The manufacturing scrap and the decommissioned products can both be recycled in order to reduce the environmental impact and generate benefits by re-using or selling the recycled material.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 63
Keywords [en]
Composites, composite, sustainability, sustainable, aero-engine, aero-engines, jet engine, aerospace, aircraft, aviation, environment, environmental, economic, social, titanium, aluminum
National Category
Other Materials Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-75369OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-75369DiVA, id: diva2:1339437
External cooperation
GKN Aerospace Sweden AB
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 30 credits
Educational program
Materials Engineering, master's level
Presentation
2019-05-24, LTU, 11:00 (English)
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2019-08-12 Created: 2019-07-29 Last updated: 2019-08-12Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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