"Depending on the chemistry of the capsule wall, we intend to grade the wall structure so it fractures at different energy levels corresponding to different amounts of impact," Brown said. "Some coatings could be created for applications with damage that occurs at low energy levels of impact, and others could be developed for damage that occurs at higher energy levels of impact. Alternately, we could develop a single coating with different signatures that looks different depending on different energy levels of impact. For now, we are looking to develop one coating that displays one energy level of impact. Once you've proved the technology works for one energy level, there's no reason you couldn't dial up a different wall structure for a different energy level."
Both internal and external coating applications could be developed with this technology. For example, composites inside the aircraft are exposed to a less severe environment than those on the leading edge of a wing, so the types of energy events in these environments may be very different. "As we approach the end of the first 18 months, we may therefore have certain research strands that aim toward external coatings and others that aim toward internal coatings."
The research targets glass-fiber and carbon-fiber composites. Since GKN provides aerostructures, the coatings would be provided as added functionality to its current and future product portfolio.