Published on : Dec 17, 2015
In its new A350 XWB jet, Airbus has significantly increased the proportion of carbon fiber in the design’s overall composition. As compared to the older models, more than 50% of the overall structure of the aircraft is made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The design was debuted by the premium aircraft manufacturer in the early 2015, but the first aircraft of this design landed in the U.S. last week, courtesy Qatar Airways.
Alain De Zotti, A350 XWB program’s chief engineer at Airbus has said that the new design process was mainly focused on optimizing earlier designs, pushing constraints, and giving solutions to the many headaches consistently faced by pilots, carriers, and flyers, jet lag being one of the most pressing ones.
With the new design, the company states that it has devised ways to make flying more comfortable, aerodynamic, and energy efficient. But, even while ensuring that these factors are taken care of, the company had to make sure that the plane would be technologically as sound today at the end of its lifespan, which is projected to be 30 years. The superior strength to weight of carbon fiber, which is far better that many of the commercially used metals and other materials in aircrafts, has served well to the design’s vision.
Carbon fiber reinforced plastic, the composite used in the plane, is also known to be less susceptible to corrosion than aluminum, which is most commonly used in traditional aircraft designs.
Though this is not the first instance of use of carbon fiber in airplanes – nearly 30% of the total carbon fiber manufactured across the globe is consumed by the aerospace industry – it is the first time that the material has been used in such a large proportion.
Analysts studying the carbon fiber industry claim that the material has a very bright future, mainly owing to its excellent strength and lightness. The demand for lighter vehicles, which are technically more fuel-efficient and thus much cleaner compared to other vehicles weighing more, continues to rise on a global front. In this scenario, the new plane from Airbus confirms to the fact that designers are considering the possibility of carbon fiber being a good choice for producing lighter versions of vehicles with as much strength as their metal variants.
Looking at the amount of money companies are spending in the research and development of designs of a variety of products that can efficiently incorporate carbon fiber, it won’t come as a surprise if more such designs enter the market in the near future.