Lighter and, therefore, less polluting aircraft is one step closer

(20-01-2022) In his doctorate, Ahmed Elmahdy conducted research into new composite materials that could be used in the construction of aircraft instead of metals because they are much lighter.

In the latest generation of aircraft, epoxy-based composite materials are increasingly replacing traditional construction materials. This is mainly due to their excellent strength-to-weight ratio, ever-improving fatigue properties, excellent corrosion resistance and their flexibility. This combination of properties are not yet available in metals, such as aluminum or titanium. The result of using composites in aircraft is lighter, yet strong and rigid, structures that reduce the overall weight of the aircraft and ultimately reduce CO2 emissions.

On the other hand, composite materials also have a number of challenges that still stand in the way of their widespread use in aircraft: the resistance to impact loads, the environmental and recycling issues, and the costs of manufacturing, certification and airworthiness testing.

"These challenges can be solved by developing new classes of composite materials," says Ahmed Elmahdy.

"In my PhD, with respect to impact loading, I studied the mechanical behavior of new epoxy-based composites at high strain rates and in different stress conditions, specifically basalt epoxy composite and epoxy nanocomposite filled with silica and hyperbranched polyester nanoparticles."

Both material classes were developed to address industry challenges such as impact loading and manufacturing costs.

"High strain rate testing techniques were optimized using state-of-the-art optical measurement tools to obtain high-quality material data for calibration of material models," Ahmed explains.

"The results show a promising potential to replace fiberglass composites with the cheaper and better performing basalt fiber composites in aircraft structures and, more generally, components sensitive to impact loading," Ahmed continues.

As for epoxy nanocomposites, the results showed that the addition of both nanoparticles generally improves the compressive strength of epoxy resin.

"Although further research needs to be done, lighter and therefore less polluting aircraft are one step closer," Ahmed concludes.

Read a more detailed summary or the entire PhD


PhD Title: Experimental Characterization of the Dynamic Behavior of Novel Epoxy Based Composites for Aerospace Applications


Contact: Ahmed Elmahdy, Patricia Verleysen

Ahmed Elmahdy

Ahmed Elmahdy was born on the 12th of January, 1989 in Giza, Egypt. He obtained his bachelor and master degrees in Mechanical Design and Production Engineering from Cairo University in July 2010 and October 2014, respectively. The topic of his master thesis was the experimental characterization of the flexure behaviour of glass fiber reinforced polyester composites subjected to repeated impact load.

In September 2015, he received a full scholarship from Ghent University to pursue his PhD degree at the MST-DyMaLab, under the supervision of Patricia Verleysen. His PhD research was performed in the framework of the EXTREME Horizon 2020 research project.

The academic and professional careers of Ahmed span over several years. In 2011, he worked as a piping engineer at Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions in Cairo, Egypt. In 2012 he joined the Department of Mechanical Design and Production Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University as a teaching assistant and was later promoted in 2014 to Assistant Lecturer. During his tenure at Cairo University, he taught and assisted in the teaching activities of various course and labs such as Strength of Materials, Stress Analysis, and Fundamental of Manufacturing Engineering, among others. During the period of 2013 to 2015, he also worked as a mechanical engineer at the Center of Engineering Studies at Cairo University.

Ahmed is currently a research engineer at the Joining and Materials laboratory at Flanders Make (the strategic research center for the manufacturing industry in Flanders, Belgium). He is also the author and co-author of 8 international peer reviewed journal articles (A1), and 10 full conference proceedings articles (C1/P1). From these publications, five A1 journal articles and five C1/P1 conference articles are related to the PhD research.


Editor: Jeroen Ongenae - Final editing: Ilse Vercruysse - Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke