Aerospace and Defence
The aerospace and defence sector has a rich and diverse history. Defence, born out of necessity during early civilisations, has evolved over centuries of conflicts, transitioning to modern defence in both the real and cyber realms. Aerospace, a dream realised with the Wright brothers’ historic 1903 flight, further evolved with the advent of the jet age, and culminating in the 1969 moon landing, continues to thrive today.
In the present day, the aerospace and defence sector stands at a pivotal juncture, presenting unprecedented challenges and opportunities. The sector faces numerous obstacles, including the need for lightweight, high-strength materials capable of withstanding extreme conditions. Additionally, technological advancements, stringent safety standards, environmental concerns and geopolitical complexities have influenced global supply chains. However, the emergence of advanced materials, cutting-edge technologies, and global competition, offers solutions to these challenges, making adaption and innovation crucial.
Commercial aerospace demands more efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft that meet strict safety standards. Meanwhile, the defence industry must grapple with ensuring national security in an ever-evolving threat landscape across the physical and digital realms. Space exploration, which continues to capture our imagination, requires advanced materials and innovations that can endure the rigours and extremes of space travel. One common barrier across all areas is the escalating cost, which must be overcome to thrive in this demanding industry. Goodfellow, a trusted global supplier of high-quality advanced materials and expert technical advice and services, is the ideal partner to support the constantly evolving automotive sector.
This industry's applications are some of the most demanding applications for materials. Materials used for aerospace applications will often have to withstand extreme environmental conditions and stresses outside the normal range that most materials will experience. Often, there will be tighter tolerance limits for many aerospace applications for safety reasons. Thus, any materials used must be of the best quality to ensure that no unexpected behaviours occur due to unwanted defects.
Recent developments in aerospace include the development of lighter aluminium alloys with less drag and resistance to reduce overall weight and improve fuel efficiency to extend flight distances. Aluminium alloys are one of the dominant types of materials used in aerospace and defence industry applications as a result of their very high strength-to-weight ratio, but more and more composite materials have been replacing aluminium alloys in certain areas of commercial jet airlines, such as the fuselage and wing.
At present, there is a solid drive toward finding novel ways to make aircraft more efficient to reduce the environmental impact of the aerospace industry while also realising other fuel and power technologies. However, achieving this requires the development of new materials. Many spacecraft are also benefitting from the development of lighter materials, in particular those that are heat resistant and radiation hard. The James Webb Space Telescope that was launched in December 2021 used very large areas of Kapton film, which is radiation resistant and vacuum compatible, and it was used to protect the large telescope and mirrors that form the basis of the observational instruments on board.
One recent concern for the aerospace and defence industry has been finding ways to develop a sustainable supply chain and reduce some of the costs associated with raw materials to improve profitability. The sector has seen significant impacts on operating profits, with raw materials costs also rising 22 – 44 %, and this has pushed a new desire for innovation in the aerospace and defence industries for the types of materials that are cheaper and more abundant, including alloys with metals.
Goodfellow materials for Aerospace and Defence
Goodfellow is an expert in the development and supply of materials for some of the most demanding applications, both on Earth and in space, including for aerospace and the defence industry. With over 75 years of expertise as a global supplier of materials, Goodfellow has an extensive catalogue of over 150,000 products including standard alloys and new cutting-edge performance materials to achieve a new level of excellence in aerospace and defence industry applications.
The support Goodfellow can provide goes beyond just supplying materials either in small-scale volumes for research and development applications or for large-scale aerospace production but extends to a team of in-house scientists and engineers who can develop bespoke solutions both on the material and manufacturing side for you to achieve the performance you need.
Goodfellow materials in Space
Goodfellow’s materials have not just found application on Earth but also in scientific instruments mounted on the International Space Station. Goodfellow provided the high-quality polymethyl-methacrylate that had to be specially moulded and machined to form the light guides for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. The manufacturing of the guides was particularly demanding as the project needed to combine moulding grade PMMA with high UV transmission that would normally be achieved through a cast product.
The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft probe was another application for which Goodfellow was called upon for its expertise in the development of platinum wires. The probe, which explored the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, used Goodfellow’s platinum wires to measure the moon’s thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity.
Goodfellow materials for Aerospace
The extreme temperatures, conditions and fatigue experienced by aircraft parts mean the alloys must be made to the strictest purity conditions. Goodfellow has successfully provided alloys of many metals, including tungsten, molybdenum, tantalum, rhenium and niobium, within a 0.001 % purity tolerance. The materials were also treated to ensure they had high corrosion resistance and excellent quality control on the mass and density, which meant consideration of not just the manufacturing process, but also how parts would be shipped and handled so they would not undermine the performance.
Goodfellow has provided batches of various sizes for aerospace projects, from small to medium quantities of kilos of highly specific alloy combinations to the exact customer requirements.
Goodfellow materials for the Defence Industry
Material testing is a key part of ensuring the right final product performance. Goodfellow offers testing services that can provide part of consulting advice to customers who are still exploring which is the right material for their application.
Goodfellow offers a range of different wire types, including platinum and niobium, that are available in ultrathin thicknesses. With its in-house expertise in aerospace materials, Goodfellow has also been able to create a specialist niobium-titanium wire that is incredibly strong and temperature resistant with excellent conductivity. Many of the wires created were less than a hundred microns in diameter – finer than a single strand of human hair – and specialist matrix preparation methods needed to be used to create the wires to the specified dimensions.
Goodfellow, a leader in Advanced Materials Innovation
As a leader in materials innovation, Goodfellow is now offering green graphene to address many of the concerns about the sustainability and environmental impact of the materials produced. With no compromise on the purity of the final material, Goodfellow has developed a way of breaking down methane into carbon and hydrogen in a plasma and then recombining the carbon into the thin sheets of graphene as required.
With this method, Goodfellow can make use of a common waste product from industry – methane - which would typically be released into the atmosphere, where it acts as an extremely potent greenhouse gas. The production method is also incredibly scalable and quick, meaning the outstanding strength of graphene without the negative environmental footprint.
Goodfellow offers a comprehensive range of aluminum alloys, titanium and TZM, covering all aspects of aerospace and the defence industry needs, with the ability to also create custom products on request.