Airbus is expanding the use of fiber-reinforced materials, slashing weight by 25 percent over aluminum. But as usage increases, so does the likelihood reinforced parts will crack. Though cracks in fiber-reinforced materials expand more slowly as they grow, pilots and passengers would still like to know these cracks are spotted and fixed quickly. Airbus is working with Belgian sensor maker XenICs to integrate long, fiber-like sensors within fiber-reinforced plastic components. The resulting in-flight aircraft structural analysis system will monitor the internal health of crucial structural components continuously during flight. Up to 40 sensor fields can be evaluated simultaneously within one fiber.
NASA and Boeing developed a huge, carbon composite cryogenic fuel tank for deep space missions, and started testing it last month. The 18-ft cryotank will enable heavy-lift launch vehicles to send both humans and robots into deep space.
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