UCLan unveils world’s first graphene skinned plane

31 July 2018
Juno with some of the UCLan aerospace engineering team.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has unveiled the world’s first graphene skinned plane at an internationally renowned air show. Juno, a three-and-a-half-metre wide graphene skinned aircraft, was revealed on the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) stand as part of the ‘Futures Day’ at Farnborough Air Show 2018.

The University’s aerospace engineering team has worked in partnership with the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), the University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute (NGI), Haydale Graphene Industries (Haydale) and a range of other businesses to develop the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which also includes graphene batteries and 3D printed parts.

Billy Beggs, UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Manager, said: “The industry reaction to Juno at Farnborough was superb with many positive comments about the work we’re doing. Having Juno at one the world’s biggest air shows demonstrates the great strides we’re making in leading a programme to accelerate the uptake of graphene and other nano-materials into industry.

“The programme supports the objectives of the UK Industrial Strategy and the University’s Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) to increase industry relevant research and applications linked to key local specialisms. Given that Lancashire represents the fourth largest aerospace cluster in the world, there is perhaps no better place to be developing next generation technologies for the UK aerospace industry.”

Previous graphene developments at UCLan have included the world’s first flight of a graphene skinned wing and the launch of a specially designed graphene-enhanced capsule into near space using high altitude balloons.
UCLan engineering students have been involved in the hands-on project, helping build Juno on the Preston Campus.
Haydale supplied much of the material and all the graphene used in the aircraft. Ray Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are delighted to be part of the project team. Juno has highlighted the capability and benefit of using graphene to meet key issues faced by the market, such as reducing weight to increase range and payload, defeating lightning strike and protecting aircraft skins against ice build-up.”

David Bailey Chief Executive of the North West Aerospace Alliance added: “The North West aerospace cluster contributes over £7 billion to the UK economy, accounting for one quarter of the UK aerospace turnover. It is essential that the sector continues to develop next generation technologies so that it can help the UK retain its competitive advantage. It has been a pleasure to support the Engineering Innovation Centre team at the University in developing the world’s first full graphene skinned aircraft.”

The Juno project team represents the latest phase in a long-term strategic partnership between the University and a range of organisations. The partnership is expected to go from strength to strength following the opening of the £32m EIC facility in February 2019.

The next step is to fly Juno and conduct further tests over the next two months.

Notes

The additional partners involved in the project are: FDM Digital Solutions, Fastavia Ltd., Tri-cast Composite Tubes Ltd., John Burn Ltd. the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester and the Advanced Manufacturing and Automation Centre (AMAC) at Training 2000.

Haydale is a global technologies and materials group that facilitates the integration of graphene and other nanomaterials into the next generation of commercial technologies and industrial materials. With expertise in graphene, silicon carbide and other nanomaterials, Haydale is able to deliver improvements in electrical, thermal and mechanical properties, as well as toughness. Haydale has granted patents for its technologies in Europe, USA, Australia, Japan and China and operates from six sites in the UK, USA and the Far East.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston was founded in 1828 as the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge. Since those early days it has grown into one of the UK’s largest universities with a staff and student community approaching 38,000 and an employment-focused course portfolio containing over 350 undergraduate programmes and nearly 250 postgraduate courses. The University has an established research reputation with world-leading or internationally excellent work taking place within the areas of Business, Health, Humanities and Science.

As a truly global institution with an established campus in Cyprus, UCLan’s student body includes 120 nationalities and its partnership network extends to 125 countries. In 2013 the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings awarded UCLan the full five stars for its global outlook in all aspects of international educational provision. In 2017 the Centre for World University Rankings placed UCLan in the top 3.3 percent of all worldwide universities.

The University has a strong focus on continually improving the student experience and recently unveiled a 10-year, £200 million plan to redevelop its Preston Campus to create an attractive and inviting, world-class campus helping to create jobs, kick-start regeneration and attract inward investment into the City.

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