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innovative sensor technology, 1000x more sensitivity

The use of composite materials in aerospace manufacture is accelerating fast, with the most modern aircraft in the world’s fleet now made of more than 50% composite materials. These new-generation aeroplanes are lighter, more fuel-efficient, and so more profitable, as well as significantly reducing CO2 emissions compared to traditional aluminium planes. However, composite materials are much more expensive to produce, partly because they are not yet as well-understood as metals, so the industry spends millions every year slowly inspecting each part for flaws before it is deemed safe enough to take its place in an aircraft. And inspecting composite components is not easy.


Carbon Fibre is in many ways an ideal material for aerospace construction, being less dense than aluminium, with a greater stiffness-to-weight ratio. It doesn’t corrode and it is less susceptible to fatigue. Carbon Fibre components can be moulded directly into their required geometry, reducing the need for vulnerable joints. But there is also the possibility of introducing weakened areas when constructing the material itself- fibres can break or move out of alignment, layers can separate, gaps can open up, and this can all happen invisibly, deep within the internal structure of the material, weakening it and leading to unexpected failure.

Manufacturers need techniques to inspect the inner structure of their carbon fibre components and CFLUX is designed to do just that. The inspiration is the traditional eddy current non-destructive testing techniques that have been used for aluminium aircraft. These are fast and effective for finding hidden flaws but rely on the good conductivity of metals. Carbon fibre is 1000 times less conductive than aluminium, making eddy current testing impossible, until now.


The CFLUX consortium have developed innovative sensor technology that can give sensitivities 1000 time greater than before, retrieving high-quality, high-resolution signals that were previously unachievable. Not only that, but this technology is tiny, making it easy to develop into multi-sensor arrays that are resilient and flexible and ideal for use in the production-line robotics necessary to really speed up and reduce the cost of the inspection process.

Robotic inspections using CFLUX are expected to be more than 30 times faster than current processes, saving the industry over £1,200 on the costs of inspecting a single 34m2 composite component for an A380, supporting the aerospace industry in its drive for aircraft that are lighter, more cost-efficient, with a reduced impact on our environment.