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Aerospace Structural Composites Soar to New Heights

SpecialChem / Oct 12, 2005

Plastic composites in the aerospace industry were once confined to exterior aircraft linings, the leading and trailing edges of wings, galleys and other non-structural applications. But today, plastic composites are being used to fabricate load-bearing structures such as wings, fuselages and floor beams. By substituting aluminum and other metals in airplanes with low-density, high-performance composites, aircraft builders hope to make their planes lighter. This can translate into lower fuel bills for their commercial aircraft customers, who face increased competition and unprecedented run-ups in fuel costs. About 15% of the structural weight of current civilian aircraft now consists of composites, mostly those made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. A new generation of planes, now entering production, will employ up to 50% structural composites. According to a 2004 study of plastic composites in the aerospace industry, prepared by EADS Deutschland GmbH, aircraft parts made of composites are 15-20% lighter than equivalent parts made of aluminum.

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