Research and development in higher learning institutions around the globe is critical. It leads to breakthroughs that benefit industry and humanity. Composites Manufacturing did some research of its own to present a sampling of noteworthy achievements from various universities. This story, about bomb-proof luggage bags, is the third in a series of stories this month.

Project: The Fly-Bag
School: University of Sheffield
Location: Sheffield, United Kingdom
Director: Jim Warren

As terrorists increasingly targeted airlines by planting bombs in passenger luggage, Jim Warren turned his attention to preventing catastrophic damage to planes. Warren and his research team in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering developed the Fly-Bag, a flexible container to hold passenger luggage. It features multiple layers of fabrics, composites and coatings designed to absorb a bomb blast.

“The Fly-Bag works like a high-strength balloon,” says Warren. “In the event of an explosion, it stretches slightly, holding the explosive gas and fragments inside. Then it gradually allows the gas to escape into the hold at a rate the vent valve in the plane can deal with.”

The Fly-Bag is an alternative to hard luggage containers, which are expensive and heavy. In addition, they don’t fit in many narrow-body aircrafts. “[Hard luggage containers] give airlines a large capital and ongoing fuel cost,” says Warren. “We saw a need for a low-weight, lower-cost solution.”