Morphing Aircraft at Swansea University


The performance of aircraft structures is continuously increasing, enabled by the accurate simulation and subsequent optimization of these systems. Adaptive structures and morphing aircraft are novel technologies that can provide a step change in performance, and this project provides an efficient method to model, optimize and realize these structures. Morphing aircraft have the ability to alter the shape of their wings to improve fuel efficiency or to increase control effectiveness. From the structural perspective the objective is to produce fully integrated, hierarchical structures with compliance control. However the requirements are conflicting: the structure must be stiff to withstand the external loads, but must be flexible to enable shape changes. The solution to this conflict is to design the structure to decouple the two actions, through components with significant anisotropy and integrated actuation. The components may be modelled at the micro scale, but these models are too large for system optimisation studies. This project provides a step change to existing methods by developing a framework where multi-scale and multi-physics modelling may be achieved efficiently, though significant improvements in the way in which the different models of varying fidelity communicate.

Project Objectives

The objective is to build design tools to model specific components with adaptive structures in a way that enables the simulation and design optimisation of the total system. Design tools will be developed and validated to enable practical systems to be simulated and optimized. This requires

· the development of a framework for the multi-scale modelling of adaptive structures based on a library of equivalent physical models for typical structural components;

· the modelling, optimization and practical implementation of corrugated and honeycomb structures for morphing skins;

·  the design and manufacture of passive and active compliant truss structures; and

· the development of variable stiffness materials and structures, and the production of demonstrators for morphing aircraft and vibration isolation.

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