Air Force funds development of titanium-replacement materials for engines and aircraft

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Developing better, faster, stronger, and more sustainable aircraft requires the discovery and successful manufacturing of advanced, high-temperature materials.  Additionally, the best new materials solutions meet environmental, health and safety regulations and are non-toxic alternatives to their predecessors.

Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory and PROOF Research Advanced Composites Division (formerly Performance Polymer Solutions Inc., P2SI), in Moraine, Ohio, are developing and maturing computationally derived materials, manufacturing and engineering solutions, including advanced, high-temperature polymer matrix composites (PMCs) that are used to replace titanium. Applications for these materials exist on the F135 and F110 engines; B-2, F-117 and F-22 aircraft; missile structures; and sixth-generation engines. 

As a replacement for titanium structures, high-temperature PMCs offer up to a 40-percent weight savings resulting in annual fuel savings of hundreds of dollars per kilogram of titanium replaced per aircraft in addition to potential increased service life and improved fatigue resistance.

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program office is providing an additional $750,000 to PROOF ACD (P2SI) to help transition these technologies in support of the Air Force's Technology Program for Integrated Computational Methods for Composite Materials (ICM2). 

"This maturation effort supports the warfighter by providing new capabilities and performance at a reduced cost," said Dr. Brent Volk, the AFRL researcher managing the effort.  "It completes development of an advanced materials 'toolbox' that includes a higher temperature polyimide matrix composite, a computational process model for the material integrated into a commercial, off-the-shelf software package, validation of the process model on complex geometries, and a materials design-allowable database."

In addition to the SBIR funding, this program leverages more than $1.6 million in funding from industry partners, including Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation and Triumph Aerostructures.  These funds will help ensure the SBIR Phase II effort graduates into a program that successfully transitions its technologies into military or private sectors.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs are mission-oriented programs that integrate the needs and requirements of the Air Force through research and development topics that have military and commercial potential. The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982 to fund research and development (R&D) through small businesses of 500 or fewer employees.  The STTR program was established in 1992 to fund cooperative R&D projects with small businesses and non-profit U.S. research institutions, such as universities.

Since 2006, the Commercialization Readiness Program has directly linked Air Force centers to Air Force Research Laboratory technical points of contact to identify and evaluate Air Force needs and innovative solutions.  Its primary objective is to accelerate the transition of SBIR/STTR-developed technologies into real-world military and commercial applications.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs provide more than $300 million in funding for research and development activities by small businesses annually.  With this budget, the Air Force funds research from the early stages of concept development until it transitions to military or commercial use.

For more information about these programs, please call the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Office at 1-800-222-0336, email info@afsbirsttr.com, or visit their website at www.afsbirsttr.com.