ecoTECH activities and outputs are expected to have essential societal impacts. More than 3 million people are employed in the European Aircraft and Airlines industry. Therefore, strengthening the competitiveness of this industry and related SMEs through the development of state-of-the-art technologies is vital to Europe’s high technology and economic future.
More precisely, there are three aspects of impact considered within the ecoTECH project:
1. Technical Impact
One science and technology perspective is to reduce the weight of aircrafts which has the potential to reduce the environmental footprint of an aircraft significantly. This will be reached by implementing lighter materials, development of new airframe structure designs and new manufacturing and assembly technologies. A lower structural weight will reduce fuel consumption and hence CO2 emissions, as well as NOx emissions.
The solutions developed in ecoTECH for the assembly of thermoplastic composite structures, as well as aluminium and magnesium based metallic structures, will have a direct impact on:
- Assembly times
- Assembly costs
- Ease of disassembly
- Energy consumption,
2. Industrial and Financial impact
ecoTECH is based on the development of airframe technologies aiming at improving aircraft life cycle, environmental footprint, covering different technology areas, such as:
- Materials (light alloys, composites) and surface treatments (novel eco-friendly coatings)
- Manufacturing processes (joining technologies, additive manufacturing, forming)
- Maintenance and repair
- End of life processes (dismantling of aircraft´s airframes and recycling of resulting materials)
All of them make new businesses available for the materials studied, but mainly it will open new manufacturing possibilities for European industry. The industrial profiles would be:
- Alloy manufacturers and suppliers
- Technical services or engineering to adapt or customise the manufacturing processes
- End-users themselves
ecoTECH will increase the competitiveness of an important group of European Aeronautical companies, with the aeronautic sector being one of the most innovative sectors with high R&D investment in Europe.
3. Environmental impact
Being part of the ‘Clean Sky’ initiative, general environmental aspects will be improved. A principal improvement will be the raw material amount decrease. Fewer raw materials have to be processed. This affects to the manufacturing process itself. Manufacturing cost is decreased, manufacturing energy and water need is decreased as well. At the same time, outputs (warming, effluents and waste) are also decreased directly.
Total material saved is relevant not only by the direct material saving (cost) but because of the consequences in the airplane’s weight, fuel saving, NOx and CO2 decrease. Improved designs make it also possible to easier maintain aircrafts. A 100 kg saving in material is equivalent to a reduction of 1.33 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions across the life of an aircraft.
The technologies being developed within ecoTECH do consider recycling aspects for environmental impact. The main objective of the Technology Stream is to reduce the lifecycle environmental footprint for aircraft. While studies will consider these aspects in material selection and manufacturing, ecoTECH will also consider recyclability of the materials.
Novel bio-composites with excellent mechanical properties reduce the usage of non-renewable resources, mainly crude oil. Natural fibers are fast growing renewable resources that can bind CO2 from the atmosphere. Disposal of bio-composites can be performed by incineration, producing only CO2, water and energy, leaving no slag or harmful ashes.