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Graphene composites may lower corrosion in leading edges

Composites are used in many industries because they offer superior corrosion resistance compared to metals and other traditional materials. The modern airplane has especially benefited from the corrosion resistance of composites, and new graphene composites may be poised to help lower corrosion in one of the key areas of modern planes: leading edges.

How graphene composites lower corrosion risk in airplane leading edges

In modern airplanes, leading edges is a term that refers to the forward-most section of structures like the wings, tail and horizontal stabilizer. These areas are particularly prone to corrosion because they’re the first part of the plane to contact the air. This means the leading edges are exposed to extremely high temperatures from compressive heating of the air in front of them, and this extreme heat can, in turn, lead to increased leading-edge corrosion.

Graphene composites are emerging as a potential barrier against this form of high-temperature corrosion. Graphene is a single sheet of the carbon-based material graphite, which is commonly found in pencil lead. When these single sheets are isolated from graphite, the hexagonal carbon structure of graphene makes it one of the strongest materials in nature. For instance, a sheet of graphene has a tensile strength of 130 gigapascals, which makes this material 100 times stronger than steel.

It’s this high strength in a small package that has companies like Airbus looking into graphene composites for leading edges. In fact, the company recently produced a graphene composite horizontal tail plane leading edge for an A350 aircraft. This composite component fulfilled all initial expectations in testing, including demonstrating a resistance to corrosive temperatures superior to most other composites. The material also allows the composite leading edge to be thinner and lighter, which helps to increase fuel efficiency.

When it comes to corrosion resistance in airplane leading edges, graphene composites may prove to be the wave of the future. Success in this area may lead to the use of these composites in many other products that require excellent corrosion resistance.

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