At the recent Farnborough Air Show 2018, aerospace engineers from Britain's University of Central Lancashire presented what they state is the world's first graphene-skinned aircraft. Known as Juno, the 3.5 meter-wide (11.5-ft) unmanned plane could be a sign of things to come.
Developed in partnership with the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the University of Manchester's National Graphene Institute, and Haydale Graphene Industries, Juno additionally features graphene-based batteries and 3D-printed components. Its skin, though, is where the real action is.
Consisting of one-atom-thick layers of linked carbon atoms, graphene is not only the world's strongest manmade material, but it's also highly conductive, both thermally and electrically.
Because it's so strong, an outer covering of it adds strength to conventional fuselage materials. This allows for less of those materials to be used, leading to significant weight reductions. As a result, aircraft incorporating such skins could carry heavier payloads without using more fuel, or fly for longer distances on a given amount of fuel. Additionally, because graphene's thermal conductivity allows heat to spread throughout the material, it's not prone to ice buildup.
And finally, the electrical conductivity of graphene causes the energy of lightning strikes to be dispersed throughout the surface of the fuselage, as opposed to causing damage through localized heating in one area.
The engineers plan to conduct test flights of Juno over the next two months.
Source: Marketing Lancashire
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