The aeronautical industry is unquestionably the greatest test for engineering materials. Where other industries have a singular key requirement that the materials used have to adhere to, the aeronautical industry has manifold requirements- often simultaneously. Not only is there the construction of the aircraft itself to consider- and these are heavy vehicles- there are also positive and negative pressures, stress and strain, yaw and torque, along with the greatest of extremes of temperature. Each material selected must be absolutely correct for the purpose it has been chosen to serve- this is not an industry where you can afford to cut corners.
Aluminium in Aviation
Aluminium usage in aeronautics goes back as far as the aeronautical industry itself. Indeed, the Wright brother's struggle to find an engine with the specifications they required for their Wright Flyer, namely a weight of 90Kg and a power output of 8hp, lead them to develop their own engine using a cast aluminium block. The use of this material and their ingenuity surpassed even their own expectations, creating an engine which weighed 77Kg and offered 12hp, without which, history may not have been made that December day. Its low mass, high strength and sheer breadth of alloys suitable to meet the physical requirements of air travel make it absolutely essential to almost all aircraft's construction.
Nickel in Aviation
Nickel-based Superalloys are used primarily in an aircraft's jet engine. The reasons for this are that they have excellent creep resistance, high yield strength, high thermal fatigue resistance and hot corrosion resistance. The combination of these properties make them ideal for a environment where they are subjected to significant rotating stresses at high temperatures.
U500, U700, 738, GTD 111
X 40, X 45, N 155, GTD222
Alloy X, N 263, Alloy 188
Steel in Aviation
In the early days of aviation, much of an aircraft would have been constructed from steel. As materials technology advanced, it was quickly superceded by lighter, stronger and more heat resistant materials. However, some stainless steels were deemed indispensable and are still used in manufacturing high strength shafts and jet engine components.
Cr-Mo-V, A286, M-152
403, 403Nb, GTD 450
Titanium in Aviation
If there was one metal which could be lauded as being fundamental to the aviation industry, It would be Titanium. High strength, good modulus, corrosion resistant, creep resistant, stable at high temperatures... there's nothing that Titanium can't do. As such, you will find it across a plane's structure - from the fuselage to the landing gear and everywhere between.
Air Frame / Structural components
General aircraft components
Ducting and hydraulic tubing
Jet engine components
Gas turbine components
Helicopter rotor head
Grade 1, Grade 6, Ti-5Al-2.5Sn, Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo-0.1Si, Grade 5, Grade 23, Ti-6Al-6V-2Sn, Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo, Ti-4Al-4Mo-2Sn-0.5Si, Ti-6Al-2Sn-2Zr-2Mo-2Cr-0.5Si, Ti-4.5Al-3V-2Mo-2Fe, Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al
Grade 2, Ti-6Al-7Nb
Grade 6, Ti-5Al-2.5Sn, Grade 8, Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo-0.1Si, Grade 5, Ti-6Al-6V-2Sn,Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo, Ti-4Al-4Mo-2Sn-0.5Si, Grade 20
Grade 6, Ti-5Al-2.5Sn, Grade 8, Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo-0.1Si, Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo, Ti-4Al-4Mo-2Sn-0.5Si, Ti-4.5Al-3V-2Mo-2Fe, Ti-5Al-4Cr-4Mo-2Sn-2Zr
Grade 5, Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al
Carbon Fibre in Aviation
A true spage age material, Carbon Fibre is invaluable to the aviation industry. It is strong, rigid, easy to form, yet very lightweight. It is now used so ubiquitously that the most recent passenger 'planes have managed to use Carbon Fibre for up to 52% of the aircraft's overall weight, allowing it to fly further, faster, with more passengers, whilst using less fuel.
Carbon Fibre is used to manufacture the following aircraft components: Fuselage, Wing Sections, Tail section, Turbine blades, Jet engine cowls.
Aramids in Aviation
Whilst relatively new, Aramids are now a very common feature in aeroplanes. They are strong, light weight, easy to form, have excellent puncture and abrasion resistance, whilst also having superior heat retarding capabilities. The versatility of Aramids mean that they are found utilising different functions of their properties on different parts of the same 'plane, including:
Puncture protection in tyres and fuel tanks, helicopter rotor blades, brake linings, fire prevention barriers and structures, fireproof suits for pilots and electrical insulation.