The combustion of aviation fuels releases carbon dioxide. Emissions are easily calculated, since they are correlated to fuel consumption. The impact on the climate is the same regardless of where and at which altitude the emissions are released. Currently, aviation represents two percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, but according to the IPCC the share may reach three percent by 2050 without intervention.
Technology is progressing. Modern aircraft can achieve a fuel consumption below 0.3 dl per passenger mile – the result of better materials, improvements in design, and more fuel-efficient engines. New kinds of fuel are also being developed. (Read more in the article “Europe’s first filling station for bio-jet fuel“.)
”The aviation industry has set an ambitious goal: to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by half between 2000 and 2050. There are a number of approaches, but reducing the weight of aircraft engines is one important factor”, says Martin Risberg, Department Manager at Swerea SWECAST, Jönköping.
ThinC makes aircraft lighter
”The project ThinC aims to challenge the minimal castable thickness. Reducing wall thickness saves weight – our goal is to make certain components 25 percent lighter”, Martin says.
”Improving fuel efficiency also leads to the engine operating at a higher temperature. This makes the quality of the cast components a critical issue. It is an interesting challenge – to achieve better performance with less material. We want to reduce the weight of geometrically complex cast components, without compromising performance or ability to withstand stress.”
”We are working on both process technical improvements and changes in cast geometry and filling strategy. Virtual methods developed within the project are important tools. In addition to reducing climate impact, ThinC aims to make Swedish aviation component suppliers more competitive. We want engineers and students to know about this, we want small and medium size companies to assimilate the technology, and we want it to be used in practice in the foundry industry”, Martin Risberg explains.
ThinC is a joint project between engine manufacturer GKN Aerospace Sweden AB, foundry TPC Components AB and software developer NovaCast System AB. Swerea SWECAST – the Swedish foundry industry’s institute for research, development, education and training – is coordinating the project, acting as a hub of innovation and a bridge between academy and industry.
Advanced aluminum alloys
Triple A is another research project with a focus on developing low-weight castings for the aviation industry – but here, the vehicle industry is also involved. The properties of new aluminum alloys will be evaluated, while existing alloys are refined to withstand higher temperatures.
”With advanced aluminum alloys, able to withstand higher temperatures, more engine components could be made out of aluminum. That would reduce the weight of vehicles and aircraft”, says Lennart Sibeck, Project Manager at Swerea SWECAST.
”The projekt objective is to increase the use of aluminum for structural components in aviation, vehicles and engineering. The components have to meet extremely high standards and contribute to engine weight reduction. Our focus is to industrialize aluminum alloys with better specific mechanical properties, at both ordinary and elevated temperatures, compared to conventional alloys in use today. The overall purpose of Triple A is to give subcontractors in Sweden a competitive advantage by mastering new materials for structural components”, says Lennart. Triple A participants are Swerea SWECAST, Jönköping University’s School of Engineering, GKN Aerospace Engine Systems, truck manufacturer Scania, ABB, foundry and manufacturer of outdoor power products Husqvarna, foundries Metallfabriken Ljunghäll and Fundo Components, and Stena Aluminium, producer of recycled aluminum.
ThinC and Triple A are financed by the Swedish national cross-industry lightweight arena LIGHTer. ThinC also receive financing from the strategic innovation program Metallic Materials. These initiatives are run by VINNOVA, the Swedish Energy Agency and the Research Council Formas.
The article was published in August 2015