Rio Tinto subsidiary Alcan has released a new lightweight aluminium alloy which could compete against advanced composites, particularly on new generation narrowbody aircraft.
Called AirWare, the new line of alloys is up to 30 per cent lighter than current alloys thanks to its lower density and strength, which means that less material needs to be used. As such, it could become a cost-effective competitor to carbon composite materials for some aircraft, with Bombardier and Airbus reportedly in talks to use the new alloy for some parts of its planned future aircraft.
While composites have gained in popularity for use on large aircraft such as the Boeing 787 due to their reduced weight compared to metals, concerns about the potential for ground damage and the poor scalability are leading the major manufacturers to consider new alloys for the primary structures of new generation narrowbody aircraft. AirWare also offers an advantage in recycling, with metals still much easier to recycle than composites.