According to a recent press release from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the Air Force Small Business Innovation/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) has provided PROOF Research’s Advanced Composites Division with $750,000 to work with the Air Force Research Laboratory (ARFL) to develop advanced, high-temperature polymer matrix composites (PMCs). In addition to the SBIR funds, the Air Force says it has received more than $1.6 million from Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation and Triumph Aerostructures to advance the project.

The goal is to have these PMCs replace titanium in military aircraft, including the F-117 and F-22. The composites could also potentially be applied to F135 and F100 engines, as well as other sixth-generation engines. Replacing titanium with high-temperature polymer matrix composites can save up to 40 percent weight on an aircraft, which results in an annual fuel savings of hundreds of dollars per kilogram of titanium replaced per aircraft.

“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.”

The press release adds that in addition to reduced weight and cost, composites and advanced materials “meet environmental, health and safety regulations and are non-toxic alternatives to their predecessors,” including titanium.

Every year, the Air Force SBIR and STTR programs provide more than $300 million in funding for research and development activities by small businesses. These programs are designed to develop technologies and have them transition into real-world military and commercial applications.

For more information about these programs and projects, visit the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Office website at www.afsbirsttr.com.