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Fuzzy fiber to lower cost of composites, says Goodrich

 - July 19, 2010, 10:49 PM

Goodrich Corp. (Stand OE4) has begun collaborating with researchers at an Ohio university to produce a nanomaterial nicknamed “fuzzy fiber” that has metal-like conductive properties and can be formed into large composite structures for use in aerospace.

The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) is collaborating with Goodrich and two other companies, Renegade Materials and Owens-Corning, to build a lab where researchers can produce the nanomaterial–known by the scientific name NAHF-X–in resin composite sheets.

URDI gets the credit for inventing NAFH-X. Now, Goodrich hopes to use the hybrid composite material in new-generation engine nacelles and will explore other applications, including aircraft structural health monitoring, wheels and brakes and electrical de-icing systems.

What intrigues engineers is NAFH-X’s ability to deliver structural, electrical and thermal properties in a single structure. An engine nacelle made from NAHF-X, for example, could withstand lightning and hail damage while also providing protection from ice buildup. Besides reducing weight and complexity, this would also provide a more efficient alternative to ice-removal systems that use hot-air ducts, Goodrich said.

The breakthrough that led to the creation of NAHF-X occurred when researchers determined how to control the growth of the nanotubes to create large, uniform structures with properties suitable for products like engine nacelles. So far, the UDRI research team has demonstrated it can produce the materials in continuous sheets that are 12 inches wide. The goal is to increase the size of the resin sheets to 60 inches wide.

“UDRI’s NAHF-X fuzzy fiber is a game-changer,” said Harry Arnold, vice president, enterprise technology, at Goodrich. “It has a real potential of bringing affordable capability to composite production.”

Goodrich has committed $1 million to the fuzzy-fiber program. Goodrich’s Aerostructures team in Chula Vista, California, and its Materials and Simulation Technical Center in Brecksville, Ohio, will be tasked with evaluating potential business opportunities for the material.