The Use of Polymer Nanocomposites in the Aerospace and the Military/Defence Industries

The Use of Polymer Nanocomposites in the Aerospace and the Military/Defence Industries

Emmanuel Rotimi Sadiku (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Oluranti Agboola (Covenant University, Nigeria), Mokgaotsa Jonas Mochane (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Victoria Oluwaseun Fasiku (University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa), Shesan John Owonubi (University of Zululand, South Africa), Idowu David Ibrahim (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Babul Reddy Abbavaram (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Williams Kehinde Kupolati (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Tippabattini Jayaramudu (Universidad de Talca, Chile), Chukwunonso Aghaegbulam Uwa (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Oluyemi Ojo Daramola (Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria & Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Nnamdi Chibuike Iheaturu (Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria), Clara Nkuna (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Samuel Eshorame Sanni (Covenant University, Nigeria), Olusesan Frank Biotidara (Yaba College of Technology, Nigeria), Azunna Agwo Eze (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Kokkarachedu Varaprasad (Centro de Investigacion de Polımeros Avanzados (CIPA), Chile), Oladimeji Adetona Adeyeye (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa), Koena Mantsopa Selatile (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa) and Abongile Sinawo Ndamase (Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7838-3.ch011
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Previously, applications of composites were limited to the military aerospace. This is because civilian aircraft with composites inclusions was considered to be too expensive. The use of composite in aircrafts, instead of steel, has resulted in lightweight aircraft structures and has consequently reduced the level of fuel consumption and costs of fuel, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. Undoubtedly, nanocomposites applications abound in several aspects of human life and the use of nanoparticle in materials dates back to the understanding of the nature of these materials. This chapter will focus on the use of nanopolymers in the aerospace and in the military. Particular attention will be given to nano military weapons, nanocoating for military applications, nanotechnology for military drones, nanotechnology in military suits, gloves, boots and nanotechnology in armored military vehicles, aircraft, and military ships and in military medicine.
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In many aspects of human life, nanotechnology plays a crucial role and the enabling advances in defence technologies are simply staggering, even though some of the opportunities may not likely to be realised in the next few decades. However, currently, many advantages are being realized and more explorations are in steady progress, particularly for defence and aerospace applications. An insight into the capabilities offered by nanocomposites in general and polymer nanocomposites in particular in the aerospace and defence industries, which includes: smart materials, light and hard materials, fuel sources and storage and protective devices, will be highlighted in this chapter. It will discuss polymer-based nanocomposite materials, nanoscale fillers and the potential use of nanocomposite materials in the aerospace and defence sectors, with practical examples, where appropriate. In the past, composites were used, mainly in military aerospace applications. Nowadays, composites find applications in civilian aviation and in the military aerospace. This was because, the manufacture of civilian aircrafts with composites was considered, rather too expensive and should composites be a part of their design; they were then used, typically, for non-structural applications. However, when the civilian aircraft industry needed to respond to the rising cost of oil and pressures due to environmental concerns, this had to change for materials of comparative high strength and lighter weight.

There are recent developments in aircraft design, which can obviously be noticeable in the Airbus A380, Bombardier C-series and of course, the Boeing B787 airliners. These developments have led to a phenomenon rise in the use of composites, which has also led to a corresponding increase in adhesive bonding of primary structures in aircraft. The aerospace industry is one of the, undeniably, foremost adopters of advanced composite materials, particularly composites reinforced with carbon fibre. This is so because of the industry demands for low-weight materials with high strength and stiffness. Of course, the ability to mould composite parts and components into curved and complex shapes, is highly important for military applications. Indeed, it can be safely argued that composites constitute at least a quarter (¼) of aircraft by weight, since the introduction of composites in the aerospace industry and polymer composites and polymer nanocomposites, adhesives and sealants, constitute a major part of these materials.

In their review work, Kurahatti et al. (2010) provided an insight into the various capabilities offered by nanocomposites. They discussed some polymer-based nanocomposite materials, nanoscale fillers and provided typical examples of the actual and potential usages of nanocomposite materials in the defence sector, with practical examples.

The use of nanocomposites in aircraft construction induces significant advantages and serves as engineered and advanced solution in aircraft construction. Aircraft construction has greatly tapped into the use of nanocomposites (Armstrong, 2010 and Monti, 2010). There are varied applications of nanocomposites in the aerospace industry. Amongst such applications that are specific in the construction of aircraft, include:

(a) the strengthening element for structures, such as: frames, stringers or as the outer layer for honeycomb-type structures used at fuselage and the wings, (b) when ceramic matrix is combined and integrated with nanoaditions, the nanocomposites can represent a unique solution for the radomes of hypersonic airplanes and (c) when zirconia-based nanocomposites were used as thermal protection for turbo-engines.

The use of nanocomposites in military food packaging has been reported, while carbon nanotube and graphene composites are being vigorously studied for use in ballistic protection and for body armour. Developments are ongoing for military applications of nanocomposites in shock-absorbing materials, solid lubricants, electrostatic charge dissipation, fire retardation, electromagnetic shielding and corrosion protection. (

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