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High Temperature Characterization and Modelling of Thermoplastic Composites

Project description

The hottest new materials in the aerospace sector are put to the test

The European aerospace sector utilises low-weight, high-performance thermoset plastic composites in many applications. More recently, thermoplastics have garnered attention as alternatives to thermoset plastics. They can be melted again, remoulded, reprocessed, and recycled. Thermoset plastics, in addition to reduced recoverability, require an extra curing step to harden and set. Given their ability to melt and deform when reheated, to fully exploit thermoplastics in the aerospace industry, it is important to characterise their behaviour when subjected to heat, fire, and mechanical loading. HITCOMP is developing a practical test lab to evaluate materials, the data from which will inform a finite elements model to support the virtual testing of thermoplastics for comparison to the currently used conventional thermoset epoxy-based plastics.


Heat and fire cause more damage on composites than on metallic counterparts. In order to improve the current epoxy based composites behavior under thermal affection, an alternative is going be addressed: thermoplastic composites.
Additionally, the sector is making a transition to a more electric aircraft, increasing the thermal affection on the structure since the number of heat & fire sources.
Hence, there are several reasons behind the drastic shift from aluminum and steel to thermoplastics: weight reduction, better fuel economy and lower operation costs, emissions reduction, corrosion and fatigue resistance or, in some cases, flame resistance and retardancy .
The framework of this topic is AIRFRAME ITD Work Package B-2.1 and B-2.2 whose objective is to achieve lighter and more cost effective structures. In this line, current tendency at A/C level is to increase the structural contribution of the more efficient composites substituting metallic structures, developing fuselages with optimized usage of volume and minimized weight, cost and environmental impact.
Under this framework, the research project HITCOMP aims to characterize the behaviour, under fire and thermal affection, of new high performance thermoplastic composites based on PAEK family resins, for comparison to the current thermoset, epoxy based, composites. HITCOMP aims as well to establish an innovative methodology allowing an affordable characterization of thermoplastics and the prediction of their behaviour and resistence when submitted to fire or high temperature events and to mechanical load. For this purpose, a thermo-mechanical model based on FEM permitting an innovative “virtual” characterization of specimens will be developed. An innovative testing lab based on two co-registrated IR cameras will be developed too. It will allow accurate, non-intrusive measurements of the actual temperature of both sides of the samples during the fire tests and for the adjustment and validation of the model.


Net EU contribution
€ 259 986,25
28903 Getafe (Madrid)

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 259 986,25

Participants (2)