Research & Innovation Services

Nanoreinforced Solid Fibre Laminates (NSFL) for improved impact resistant properties

KTA Proof of Concept Award

Dept of Mechanical Engineering
Dr Michele Meo 
“The use of nanoparticles in composite materials is well recognised in a wide variety of applications. Here we have found a novel technique and its application has great benefits for enhancing the mechanical properties of aerospace structures.”

Dr Michele Meo, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath

The challenge

Composite materials, such as carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), are increasingly used in the aerospace industry for a wide range of applications, including wing superstructures. One of the limitations of CFRPs is their relatively poor response to impacts such as bird-strike, large hailstones or runway debris.

Enhancing CFRP’s mechanical properties normally requires adding extra layers of material or using high-performance materials such as Kevlar™. Such solutions are economically and environmentally costly. They lead to heavier structures that during flight result in raised fuel consumption and higher associated CO2 emissions.

The solution

Research by Dr Michele Meo in the Department of Mechanical Engineering had shown that reinforcing CFRP with silica (SiO2) nanoparticles markedly enhanced its mechanical properties with minimal weight gain. The current project aimed to optimise the composition of nanoparticle-embedded CFRP and demonstrate that the material has effective mechanical properties at a larger scale; that of a section of the leading edge of a wing (winglet) as found in commercial aircraft.

Benefits and outcomes

  • The project determined an optimal mix for the nanoparticle-reinforced matrix for the specific aerospace application.
  • The most suitable manufacturing process was established.
  • Nanoparticle-reinforced samples showed a 50% plus enhancement of damping properties and a 20% plus improvement in Vickers hardness compared to untreated samples.
  • Impact tests on the winglet design confirmed that using silica nanoparticles, higher impact energy can be absorbed.
  • An untreated CFRP winglet sample failed an industry-standard impact test whereas the nanoparticle-reinforced sample passed.
  • The project also verified that the manufacturing process is applicable to other matrices used for CFRPs of interest in energy and defence sectors.
  • Bath is establishing a patent for the nanoparticle-reinforcement process.
  • Once patented, the technique will be of commercial interest to aerospace, defence and electrical power generation sectors.

Project Team

Dr Michele Meo, Principal Investigator, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Fulvio Pinto, KT Fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Graham Fisher, Research Commercialisation Manager, Research Development & Support Office

Funded by the University of Bath’s EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account