The Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, is turning to carbon nanotubes to solve a key problem with composites in aerospace - poor thermal conductivity at the adhesive joints between structures.
Engineers try to create structures that make up an airplane to manage heat, often by removing heat. ``You need appropriate thermal-interface materials for composites,'' said Ajit Roy, research leader for the lab's advanced composites branch, in a keynote speech at Antec 2007, held May 6-10 in Cincinnati. He kicked off a session on engineering properties and structural composites.
Roy called advanced composites ``the workhorse in terms of aerospace materials.'' Composites provide weight savings over metal, and high structural and impact strength. But thermal performance is important, too, he said.
Roy displayed a slide showing a stack of carbon foam panels that acts as a heat exchanger.
The adhesive joints between components pose a special challenge. Working with the University of Dayton, Air Force researchers have found adding carbon nanotubes can improve the thermal conductivity through the adhesive, Roy reported. The nanotubes channel the heat away best when they are all properly lined up, he said.
The laboratory is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.