QinetiQ has developed a way of introducing a shape memory alloy (SMA) into carbon fiber reinforced plastic to improve its properties.

The technology can address the issue of heavy composite panels being significantly heavier than required, due to the need to resist penetrative impact threats.

The SMA wire selection, geometry and architecture, as well as the weaving process, are all designed to ensure that the high specific properties of the carbon fiber composite are maintained, whilst the SMA makes it easier to absorb energy before structural penetration. In tests, the inclusion of only 10% by volume SMA resulted in a structure more than three times stronger than the baseline carbon fiber composite.

Tested against the highest lightning strike threat level, the technology can also eliminate the need for additional lightning strike meshes.

QinetiQ is currently moving into the next phase of development and looking for direction from potential users to ensure that the product they develop meets the demands of future applications. To find out more, email charlotte.michael@nccuk.com.

This story uses material from the National Composites Centre, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.