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The Advanced Composites Research Group at Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is now well established, with nineteen PhD students, six postdoctoral researchers and six academic staff members pursuing a range of research programmes related to the advancement of composites science and technology. Among these, a major effort has been underway to create multifunctional lightweight composite aerostructures utilising the unique properties of carbon nanotube webs (CNTWs), produced from directly spinnable CNT forests (highly aligned CNTs grown on a silicon substrate). This body of work addresses four primary objectives: (i) Enhancing structural integrity; (ii) Structural health monitoring; (iii) Lightning strike protection, and (iv) Anti-icing/de-icing.

Since the start of the project a substantial level of work has been conducted which has lead to a number of research outcomes. The following is a summary of the main research accomplishments:

• The production of CNTs, based on chemical vapour deposition, was further optimised to ensure high specification CNTs which can be directly drawn into webs.
• A detailed study of the interaction of CNT assemblies with epoxy resins.
• The production of buckypaper decorated with silver nanoparticles and graphene, for increasing the surface electrical conductivity of a composite skin for lightning strike protection applications.
• Development of an energy efficient integrated electro-thermal anti-icing/de-icing system utilising multidirectional CNTWs for fully tailored thermal and electrical properties.
• Development of a CNTW-based structural health monitoring device based on the piezoresistive properties of a single CNTW.

The research group continues to progress towards a successful outcome of the ambitious objectives set out in MAGNUS. To this end, a patent application has been filed to protect these developments. The adoption of the technologies being developed by this research group will deliver a disruptive technology in the design and construction of the next generation of composite aerostructures. It will yield a significant weight reduction in future airframes and potentially lower maintenance costs, which will contribute to the overall aims of the European Union to reduce the environmental impact of aviation. Some of the additional functionalities, arising from the use of CNTWs, will also be of interest to other transport sectors and the wind energy industry.