The FP7 Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative, which contributes to the reduction of aviation's environmental impact in alignment with the ACARE agenda, promoted the implementation of the Eco-Design Integrated Technology Demonstrator (ITD) programme.
This was fully devoted to introducing new perspectives aimed at future aeronautical products being developed by the EU industry through the development of promising new green technologies, combined with a disciplined and harmonised way to assess their benefits at component and aircraft level through life-cycle engineering analyses (LCA).
The optimal use of materials, energy, resources involved in production, avoidance of hazardous non-Reach compliant materials together with energy consumption optimisation of aircraft on-board systems will help in the future to considerably reduce the environmental impact of operations of the different aviation systems that will be implemented into the market.
The aeronautical industry, in view of imminent market growth, needs to anticipate and address the requirements for eco-compliant products, developing effective technologies and assessment tools to be able to reach the same level of eco-compliance that exists in other sectors.
The Eco-Design ITD, focused but not limited to small and medium-size aircraft, was conceived to cover aircraft structures, systems, and electrical aircraft architectures, through 2 dedicated projects:
- Eco-Design for Airframe (EDA)
- Eco-Design for Systems (EDS)
Both programmes were run in parallel and coordinated with the full involvement of Members and Partners through Calls for Proposals.
Eco-Design started its operations in late 2008 and was the first Clean Sky ITD to complete all technical activities by the end of 2015. The next step is to implement, in Clean Sky 2, the Eco-Design Transverse Activity, a new programme aimed at accelerating the implementation of Eco-related aspects into future aircraft definitions, while keeping the European aeronautical industry competitive.
The Clean Sky Results
Eco-Design for Airframe (EDA) demonstrators
Several demonstrators, focused around improving the ecological impact of aeronautical products, reducing primary energy demand in production, waste and emissions, increasing recyclability and covering all different phases of an aircraft life cycle, were realised and tested within the framework of the Eco-Design for Airframe (EDA) project.
These demonstrators, representing realistic aircraft parts, incorporated some of the most relevant technologies developed at the outset of the project in the field of novel green materials and processes, long life structures, end of life processes for metallic and composite aircraft structures, equipment and cabin interiors.
A more complex demonstrator incorporated more than 10 novel technologies developed by Members and Partners through Calls for Proposals - in areas of materials, surface treatments, production methods (including additive manufacturing), biomaterials, and recycling, all at an adequate technology readiness level in order to accelerate the introduction of greener products into the market.
The extensive use of recently developed LCA tools, compliant with ISO guidelines and linked to a newly developed database of key aeronautic processes, facilitated a rigorous technology selection process, providing valuable ecological assessments to compare the validity of new more eco-compliant solutions.
Eco-Design for Systems (EDS) demonstrators
Within the Eco-Design for Systems (EDS) programme, two large scale ground test-benches were employed to improve the understanding of aircraft electrical and thermal aspects, in conjunction with the use of advanced modelling tools.
Test facilities were created to reproduce aircraft electrical architectures which were improved, thanks to the project's progression, managing the evolution of a "COPPER BIRD" ground test bench at Labinal Power Systems, which providing a step-change improvement compared to previous efforts carried out during a previous POA (Power Optimized Aircraft) EU project.
The project succeeded in validating and enabling new energy management solutions adapted to airframers specifications, aimed at realising more efficient electrical aircraft architectures. Furthermore, the project used integrated system modelling, thereby reducing the necessity for ground and flight tests through the availability of novel bench systems and equipment able to generate, control and distribute energy in a smarter way - and with an improved level of quality, stability, safety and coupled with realistic aircraft equipment.
A complete new thermal test bench has been developed at Fraunhofer IBP within the framework of EDS, to reproduce realistic conditions to evaluate thermal management aspects inside an aircraft.
Three realistic aircraft fuselage sections (composite cockpit, metallic cabin and rear section-empennage) have been made ready for the purpose, in collaboration with a partner project involving SMEs, and equipped with simulators representing real aircraft equipment. An additional section (calorimeter) has been realised to reproduce extreme operating and emergency conditions (thermal shock and decompression).
Bench tests, coupled with new accurate modelling of the thermal environment, enabled realistic reproduction of aircraft in flight conditions. This exercise was developed for the benefit of airframers, helping them to define more efficient systems architecture for the future, thereby reducing the need for ground and flight testing.
The Eco-Design ITD was conceived to cover both aircraft structures, systems, and other electrical aircraft architectures through 2 dedicated projects:
- Eco-Design for Airframes (EDA)
- Eco-Design for Systems (EDS)
The ITD worked in synergy with other ITDs and in particular with the Technology Evaluator in order to assess the benefits of newly applicable technologies at a wider level.
In EDA, after the screening of the most relevant technologies made at the beginning of the programme, an effort to combine them in representative demonstrators has been made, taking into consideration the various phases of the aeronautical product lifecycle, including design, production, maintenance, withdrawal, and recycling.
Consequently, a significant number of demonstrators have been developed and analysed through novel developed LCA means, together with guidelines to help industry introduce Eco design aspects into their internal processes.
In EDS, a united effort from airframers was put in place to define a generic architecture aimed at encouraging more widespread development of electrical aircraft applications in the future. To underpin this effort, test benches able to realistically represent electrical and thermal aspects in the airframe of future aircraft, and optimised for best energy use both in operational and maintenance situations, were put in place.
The Eco-Design activities have been conducted by the ITD co-leaders Dassault Aviation, acting as coordinator, and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
142 entities have been involved in the project both at Member and Partner level, with 40% being SMEs.
The following ITD leaders with affiliates have been involved in the activities: Airbus, AgustaWestland, Finmeccanica, Airbus Defence and Space, Airbus Helicopters, Liebherr, Safran and Thales.
In addition, the following associated partners have been involved: Airbus innovation, Hellenic Aerospace Industry, Israel Aerospace Industries, the Netherland Cluster led by Fokker (Fokker Aerostructures, NLR, Sergem Engineering, TU-Delft and the University of Twente) and the RUAG Cluster (RUAG, Huntsman Advanced Materials, EPFL, University of Applied Sciences of North-Western Switzerland, ETH Zurich, Cytec, HADEG Recycling).
101 entities involved through 69 partner projects brought to the Eco-Design programme the essential skills and competences in areas of material technologies, green processes, recycling, dismantling, and Life Cycle Analysis tools, to accelerate the introduction of ecological aspects within the development process of new aircraft models.
The Eco-Design ITD enabled the EU industry and partners involved to introduce and manage ecological aspects inside a more integrated and greener design and development regime for future generations of aircrafts. It also aimed to respond to future requirements and emerging regulations.
In the field of aeronautical structures, new greener surface treatment technologies have been developed and further matured to reduce the use of hazardous substances in aeronautical parts. Benefits include:
- lower resources consumption
- waste and emissions reduction
- increased recyclability of components
All of these areas have been considered and applied as good practises in developing new manufacturing technologies and processes.
For example, autoclave and liquid composite moulding technologies are processes that could be employed in the development of new composite aircraft components. Combined one-shot curing processes could enhance the production of more integrated structures.
Other examples include:
- Metallic structures using novel low weight Aluminium-Lithium alloys
- Increased use of titanium and magnesium parts
- Extensive use of additive manufacturing technology
- Development of long life structures which save raw materials, extending material and parts life performance, and creating longer maintenance cycles
- End of life phase focus on material identification, recovery and recycling, such as carbon fibre recovery
- Recycling of insulation materials
Newly developed tools in Eco-Design will contribute to support engineers in environmental impact assessment of new aircraft development, starting from a disciplined and ISO compliant process to collect and analyse data.
In the area of electrical architectures and components, the Eco-Design ITD developed and made available two key test benches (electrical and thermal) to facilitate the testing and proving of novel, more efficient solutions for on-board electrical generation and distribution systems, thereby encouraging and accelerating the introduction of more electrical solutions into the market.
Eco-Design EDA, EDS
Eco-Design activities are well positioned to improve efficiencies, material flow and logistics concerns, through better transparency across suppliers, services and SMEs supporting these activities.
Many aircraft will be withdrawn or converted from frontline duty; the extraction of materials, use of rare materials, coping competitively with high performance substitutes against commodity demands in other sectors, will be a growing challenge.
By using high alloyed and very specific, aviation-tailored materials, it becomes clear that materials are key. Material resource management has to juggle fluctuating materials prices, materials supply chains, growing demand for materials as production demand increases and the lifecycles of the materials themselves – in addition to the environmental impact of those materials throughout their lifespan.
Also, by considering new legislations and restrictions of the European Commission including the Communication on Integrated Product Policy (IPP), REACH etc., materials should be monitored within Eco-Design. This means Eco-Design is a consequent extension of the state-of-the-art LCA and supports Design for Compliance, Design for Environment, Design for Recycling and Design for Disassembly.
There is no easy melt-down and reemployment of aeronautics alloys and composites without substantial loss of performance: Full “Recycling Capability” as quoted in the 2050 flight path agenda will need a very broad but discerning approach in the Re-Use and End of Life scenarios. In any case, this should align with economic and ecological considerations.
The energy demand across all life cycle segments is not a trivial issue. The manufacturing and production phases are of particular concern. Other footprints such as water and waste treatment, effects on general ground pollution will be brought to the forefront in a more comprehensive life cycle screening.
The present Eco-Design initiative has found major collaborative answers for anti-corrosion strategies. A broad Eco-Design Clean Sky knowledge-base and capability could be used to get strong stakeholder acceptance and solutions e.g. for the substitution potential of hazardous substances.
Eco-Design can serve as a frontrunner in the aviation sector for Europe and worldwide for analysing and quantifying the environmental footprint of air transport - in the same way as it guarantees the link between ACARE and the fulfilment of their environmental goals (CO2, NOX, environmental impacts such as global warming etc.).
The expected benefits of efficient Eco-Design are:
- the reduction of the manufacturing costs & time combined with decreased energy consumption, due to higher integration of automated manufacturing processes
- the improvement of environmental aspects (e.g. substitution of noxious substances, less waste, reduction of primary resource consumption, increased recycling ratios)
- the creation of customized LCA models for current and future aircraft, covering production maintenance and end of life
- less fuel consumption through lightweight architecture (multifunctional materials, new processes & more efficient use of resources) and efficient energy management which consequently results in CO2 and NOx emission reduction
- increased aircraft availability through more efficient maintenance (repair, longer lifetime etc.)
- reduction of ground and flight tests during the design phase as well as reduced buy to fly ratios through innovative concepts and technologies
- reduced operating costs (and emissions) through reduced fuel consumption
- benefits in recycling and corrosion resistance (innovative surface treatment, reduced use of sealants by improved welded joint designs)
- clean manufacturing conditions: no dust, no chemicals (socio-economic impact)
- less energy consumption due to “Out of Autoclave” processes