Sustainable and climate-neutral aviation

New materials and manufacturing processes reduce emissions

Aviation in Europe must be climate-neutral and sustainable along the entire value chain by 2050. To achieve this, climate-neutral aircraft needs to be available from 2035. Crucially, this requires new materials and manufacturing processes.

In order to contribute to the decarbonization of aviation, Fraunhofer IFAM is conducting research together with partners from the aviation industry in various areas ranging from materials and manufacturing technology to applications for low-emission aircraft. The research spectrum includes bio-based materials for aircraft cabins, novel coatingsand assembly technologies for tanks in hydrogen-powered aircraft, and assembly processes for highly integrated aircraft fuselage designs.

Bio-based resin systems for cabin elements

Materials that can be recycled and are not derived from fossil raw materials are central to sustainability. A particular focus is placed on bio-based resin systems, e. g. based on polybenzoxazines which are modified to comply with fire safety regulations. Typical applications in aircraft cabins may include seat cover or wall cladding elements, floor panels or structural elements for cabin fixtures such as galleys or washrooms.

Tanks for hydrogen storage

At present, concepts for climate-friendly aircraft of the future largely involve hydrogen-based propulsion systems. The challenges posed by this new energy carrier in the field of flying alsoextend to the storage of hydrogen. One focus of Fraunhofer IFAM’s work in this area is the development of polymer-based, scale-like coatings for the inner walls of tanks, which ensure significantly lower-loss storage of cryogenic hydrogen or hydrogen compressed at ambient temperature (pressurized storage). Another focus is the automated assembly of tanks for cryogenic hydrogen in passenger aircraft. This topic will also be focused on as part of the location competition “Hydrogen Technology and Innovation Center” organized by the German Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport, in which Fraunhofer IFAM is participating at the planned centers in Bremen and Stade.

Assembly technologies for new fuselage designs based on thermoplastic FRPs

Against the backdrop of climate-friendly flying, achieving a low structural weight is of crucial importance for aircraft. For a typical passenger aircraft, each kilogram of weight saved reduces kerosene consumption by up to 120 kg per year. With this in mind, Fraunhofer IFAM is researching technologies for automated joining and assembly of lighter aircraft fuselages as part of the Clean Sky 2 project “Multifunctional Fuselage Demonstrator” (“MFFD”). The significant weight reduction results from a new type of construction, which in turn is being made accessible for this field of application as a result of thermoplastic fiber composites being used for the first time worldwide.

Aircraft fuselage of the future

Increasing demand for aircraft and the need to reduce CO2 emissions require new designs and technologies for the future of aircraft construction.

For a significant increase in productivity on the one hand and environmental compatibility — through weight reduction — on the other, one approach is particularly promising: combining thermoplastic, carbon fiber-reinforced plastic aircraft structural elements, lining parts and cabin system elements into an integrated structural module. The “Clean Sky 2” project “Multifunctional Fuselage Demonstrator” (MFFD) is investigating the technological and economic feasibility of weldingbased assembly of highly integrated thermoplastic aircraft fuselage structures, developing a 1:1 scale experimental setup with different joint designs and welding processes. In addition to the welding process, the project also focuses on the automated manipulation and assembly of the structures in compliance with the highest tolerance requirements.