When struck by lightning, an aircraft can be severely damaged in addition to causing panic in passengers. In order to increase flight safety and increase lightning strike protection, Chalmers University of Technology, Universidade Federal do ABC (Federal University of ABC – UFABC) and the Swedish companies Saab AB, 2D Fab and Blackwing established a partnership in 2014, with the support of CISB, and started the Multigraph project – Multi-functional composite structure with Graphene.
Over a two-year period, the group conducted basic and applied research that involved different stages of new component development, such as mathematical modeling, experimental scale and pilot scale development. According to Danilo Carastan, professor at UFABC and project leader in Brazil, “the distance between Brazil and Sweden was not an obstacle to the development of the research. We held periodic videoconferencing meetings to ensure the project was conducted according to the proposed schedule.”
“We had a clear industrial need which was developed through a combination of experimental and theoretical work. Utilization of applied and basic research is necessary to understand the fundamental properties of the materials in order to know how to do the right mixtures and use the right techniques.” says Linnea Selegård, the project leader at Saab AB.
As result of the collaboration, it was developed a new material capable of increase mechanical strength and electrical conductivity by using graphene’s multifunctional properties. The new solution, in contrast to conventionally used copper meshes yield lightweight, multifunctional and easily maintained structural lightning strike protections.
Professor Danilo believes the project was a success, but says developing such a study, involving several companies and universities from two different countries, is challenging. “There needs to be understanding, maturity and commitment on each side to deal with the adversities that will come our way, because in the end there will be earnings on all sides by exchanging experiences that such a project will bring,” he says.
Linnea agrees and says the breakthrough is more significant when companies and academics work together. “It is very important to have a constellation which looks at the problem from different perspectives and with different knowledges.” she says.
As a continuation of the partnership, Prof. Carastan already points to the next steps: “We are working on the development of new projects involving materials for aerospace applications. One of them, ‘GraphAero’, involves the production of graphene-containing thermoplastic materials for aeronautical applications, being the direct continuation of the Multigraph project. The other, ‘Manufacturing in Space’, involves the development of materials optimized for building structures in space.”.