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Chapter 3

Materials for supersonic civil transport

Yann Barbaux and Jacques Cinquin

The consequences of the drastic economical and technical requirements for
future supersonic civil transport [1] on the materials selection for the dierent
parts of the aircraft structure have been detailed and discussed elsewhere [2].
As a result, Aerospatiale, BAe and DASA decided to increase their eort on
materials studies and to launch specic research programmes on aluminium
alloys and carbon bre reinforced polymers (CFRPs). Major research
programmes were initiated on aluminium alloys in 1992 [3] and on organic
matrix composites in 1994 [4].

Aluminium alloys
The work programme of recent research was divided into two main tasks,
corresponding to the study of the two factors assumed to inuence directly
the creep resistance and the thermal stability of metals:

Task 1: selection of the main precipitation system

Task 2: optimization of the chemical composition and of the process parameters.

The critical analysis of existing data resulted in the selection of 33 chemical

compositions, from the four alloy systems given in table 3.1. These alloys
were direct chill (DC) cast and rolled down to 14 mm thick plates and
1.6 mm thick sheets on laboratory equipment at DERA, British Aluminium
and Pechiney. They were then tested for creep, thermal stability and corrosion. Based on the results obtained on these alloys, a selection of 14 dierent

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Table 3.1. Selected alloy systems.

Alloy system

Main precipitation system

Al-Cu (2001 type)

Al-Cu-Mg (2024 or 2618 type)
Al-Mg-Si-Cu (6013 type)

0 (Al2 Cu)
S 0 (Al2 CuMg)
0 (Al5 Cu2 Mg8 Si7 )
0 (Mg2 Si)
0 (Al3 Li)
T1 (Al2 CuLi)


compositions from the S 0 and 0 0 precipitation systems was made on

which the eect of minor alloying element and thermo-mechanical process
variations was studied.
Results obtained in this project [5] were very satisfactory: all the alloys
tested presented a creep behaviour and a fracture toughness much improved
as compared with CM003 alloy (enhanced 2618), which was, at that time, the
best reference in terms of creep/damage tolerance compromise. This is
illustrated by gure 3.1 and table 3.2, which present respectively creep results
in accelerated conditions and fracture toughnesses on compact tension
specimens of three of the alloys (labelled A1, C1 and D6), in comparison
with creep results from CM003 and fracture toughness results from 2024.
Creep life times were extended by a factor of up to seven under dierent








Figure 3.1. Creep curves at 1758C/250 MPa.

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Table 3.2. Fracture toughness from R-curves on 400 mm wide

compact tension specimens.

Kc (MPa/m2 )

Kc0 (MPa/m2 )

A1 T6 (mod. 2650)
C1 T6 (mod. 6056)
D6 T6 (Al-Cu-Mg-Ag)
2024 T3



creep test conditions (including 1508C/250 MPa) compared with CM003, and
fracture toughness values from R-curves were equal to or better than the
damage tolerant 2024 T3 reference. Industrial sheets and plates from the
two most promising compositions, a modied version of 2650 Al-2%CuMg alloy and an optimized version of 6056 alloy, entered an exhaustive
evaluation programme in 1997, and the results conrm the improvement in
creep behaviour over CM003, although the benet is reduced compared
with the laboratory tests.
In parallel with the development of improved alloys, Aerospatiale has
also started studies on the interactions between creep and fatigue on notched
coupon specimens and on specimens representative of technological details
such as pocket recess or assemblies. These studies are based on the development of two parallel methods:
a modelling approach combining thermo-elasto-plastic nite elements and
physical/metallurgical prediction of creep damage
. an experimental approach with the development of specic test equipment
capable of reproducing close to real exposures on technological specimens.

The results obtained show a slight detrimental eect of 5000 and 10 000 hours
of creep exposure at 1308C on the fatigue behaviour of notched specimens in
2650 alloy.

Carbon bre reinforced polymers

It has already been published [2] that composite materials with carbon bres
and polymeric matrices are candidates to achieve the required weight savings
on future supersonic civil transport. The main requirements are acceptable
properties regarding subsonic ight specications (i.e. damage tolerance),
and thermal stability in supersonic ight conditions. Dierent types of
matrices are under investigation for Mach 2.05 applications with IM or
HR bres, including second generation epoxy, cyanate-based, thermoplastic
and bismaleimides, as shown in table 3.3. The work programme was divided
into two main research areas:

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Table 3.3. Candidate polymer matrices for carbon bre reinforced polymers.
State of knowledge
Second generation epoxy
Cyanate based systems


Well-known process
Expected service temperature: 1208C
Process similar to epoxy system
New products on the market
Expected service temperature: 1508C
Potential hot forming process
Expected service temperature: 1808C
Processing generally with post-curing
Expected service temperature: 1808C
Low damage tolerance compared with 2nd generation epoxy

the inuence of long-term thermal ageing on carbon bre reinforced polymer physical and mechanical properties
. the long-term behaviour of carbon bre reinforced polymers under
complex thermo-mechanical loading.

The inuence of thermal ageing has been studied by isothermal ageing up to

4000 hours at dierent temperatures from 1008C to 1808C, and by thermal
cycling over the ranges 508C to 1208C or 1808C for up to 1000 cycles. The
cumulative time at the maximum temperature for 1000 thermal cycles is
equivalent to 4000 hours under isothermal conditions. Dierent properties
have been investigated after these thermal ageing exposures, such as lled
hole compression, compression after impact, glass transition temperature
and microstructure. The inuence of thermal ageing on the mechanical
properties can be related to the degree of curing of the matrix, and also
to the chemical type of the matrix. Figures 3.2 and 3.3 clearly show a
post-cure eect on the second generation epoxy, not fully transformed
during the initial curing. For the cyanate system, there is a real mechanical
property degradation when isothermal ageing is performed above 1608C.
Figures 3.3 and 3.4 show that the mechanical property degradation, or
the post-cure eect, appears during the rst 1000 hours of ageing. These
rst tests were performed at a higher temperature than the service temperature, corresponding to Mach 2.05, in order to obtain in a short time
the rst indications of thermal ageing response for the dierent families
of matrix.
Another important point is the inuence of thermal ageing on the
damage tolerance properties of the carbon bre reinforced polymers. The
results, shown in gure 3.5, have been obtained with compression after
impact (CAI) tests performed on bismaleimide composites. Dierent parameters have been investigated such as the duration of ageing up to 4000

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Figure 3.2. Filled hole compression after 2000 hours of isothermal ageing.

hours, the thermal cycling eect, the position of the impact (before or after
thermal ageing), and the temperature of ageing, 1208C or 1808C. These
results indicate that the position of the impact before or after the thermal
ageing is an important parameter. If the maximum temperature is 1208C,

Figure 3.3. Glass transition temperature versus time of ageing at 1808C.

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Figure 3.4. Filled hole compression at 1808C after isothermal ageing at 1808C.

no degradation of properties is observed up to 4000 hours of ageing or 1000

cycles. In these conditions, no oxidation or microcracks are observed in the
composite materials. If the temperature of ageing is 1808C, under isothermal
conditions we do observe oxidation on the exposed edges of the samples, as
shown in gure 3.6(a). If the ageing is done under thermal cycling conditions

Figure 3.5. Compression after impact test performed after thermal ageing on bismaleimide

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Figure 3.6. Micrographic observation of a bismaleimide composite. (a) 4000 hours at

1808C under isothermal conditions. (b) 1000 cycles with Tmax 1808C and Tmin 508C.

with Tmax 1808C and Tmin 508C, we do observe microcracks inside the
composite material, as shown in gure 3.6(b).
Additionally to the study of the eect of thermal ageing, Aerospatiale
developed specic creep test procedures on 4584S specimens to test the
creep behaviour of various composite materials. Figure 3.7 presents the
creep behaviour of the dierent candidate composites for supersonic aircraft.
Aerospatiale is also beginning a research programme to assess the long
term behaviour of carbon bre reinforced polymers under complex thermomechanical loading. The typical ight spectrum for the future supersonic civil
transport in the hypothesis of Mach 2.05 is presented in gure 3.8. This ight
spectrum induces strong creepfatiguethermal cycling interactions. In order
to test the degrading eects of coldhot thermal cycling and low frequency
fatigue cycling compared with classical creep testing, on the residual properties of the composites after exposure, three specic accelerated thermomechanical cycling conditions were dened, as shown in gure 3.9. Each
cycling type corresponds to 10 000 hours at 1208C. Compared with typical
ight conditions, the maximum temperature has been increased by 208C
and the maximum stress has been doubled for test acceleration.
A specic testing apparatus has been developed to perform the three
cycling spectra (gure 3.9). These cycling spectra have been applied to
three composite systems with the same bre: one bismaleimide, one cyanate

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Figure 3.7. Creep testing on 4584S laminates at 1208C, 70 MPa.

and one epoxy. First results are available on the cyanate matrix composite.
Table 3.4 presents residual properties after cycling exposure on quasiisotropic open hole tension (OHT) and lled hole compression (FHC)
specimens. These results tend to show that coldhot thermal cycling determines the composite compression properties. The duration of exposure is
limited compared with what has to be justied (at least 60 000 hours). This
means that long-term tests have to be carried out and special care has to
be paid to the development of reliable models, able to predict long-term
behaviour from short-term accelerated tests.

Figure 3.8. Typical ight spectrum of supersonic aircraft.

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10000 hrs

0,3 S0

Type 1

Cold-Hot thermal
x 2500
0,5 h

4 hrs

0,5 h



- 55


0,3 S0

0,3 S0

x 2500
4 hrs

Type 2

Type 3

Figure 3.9. Creep facilities with thermal cycling chamber (558C 2008C).
Table 3.4. Eect of cycling on the residual properties of cyanate matrix composites.
Loss of stress
(% of initial stress)

Type 1 (creep)
Type 2 (thermal cycle)
Type 3 (fatigue)

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The pre-design studies conducted at Aerospatiale, BAe and DASA indicate
that, because of the drastic economical and technical requirements dened
for future supersonic civil transport aircraft, an important share of the structure of this aircraft will have to be made out of polymeric matrix composites
and advanced lightweight aluminium alloys.
For the aluminium alloys, studies were oriented in two directions:

the development of improved alloys

the analysis of the behaviour of aluminium components in creepfatigue
interaction conditions.

Concerning the rst topic, recent research has resulted in the development of
new low density alloys, derived from 2650 and 6056 families, with much
better creep resistance than the 2618A Concorde alloy, combined with a fracture toughness better than the reference 2024 T3 subsonic alloy. For the
carbon bre reinforced polymers, the test procedure for evaluating the
damaging of these materials in real cycling conditions has been established,
and pilot test equipment has been designed and built. Key points that will
need to be studied in more detail have been identied, such as the inuence
of thermal ageing on the damage tolerance properties of the composite
materials and the creepfatiguethermal ageing interactions.


Swadling S J 1993 J. de Physique IV 3 1130

Barbaux Y et al 1994 Proceedings of EAC 94 Toulouse 2527 October, pp 433439
Patri G and Frison G 1994 Revue Aerospatiale 108
Barbaux Y and Polmear I J 1995 Proceedings of PICAST 2-AAC 6 Melbourne 2023
March 2 pp 515520
[5] Barbaux Y et al 1995 Proceedings of EUROMAT 95 Padova, September

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