Aerospace materials research opportunities


  • The author would like to thank his colleagues at AFOSR, J. Dimmock, G. Haritos, A. Rosenstein, L. Schioler, and D. Ulrich, for their assistance in preparing and reviewing the manuscript.


As we approach the second century of aerospace, increased emphasis is being placed on endurance, reliability, ease of manufacture, and lower cost, in addition to weight saving. This change in emphasis will have a major effect on not only the selection of materials, but on how materials are integrated into the total system design process. Subsonic aircraft will continue to play a major role in our future with emphasis on increased durability and lower cost. Non-metals that do not corrode are attractive; however, the issues of reliable fracture resistance to ensure safety and durability as well as ease of manufacture and inspection will be key. Higher performance engines and hypersonic aircraft will require higher temperature materials (including a substantial amount of non-metals) along with reliable toughness and ease of manufacture. In space, weight will continue to be a major driving force along with the need for long term vacuum and radiation stability. Ease of assembly and multifunctional use (e.g. electrically or thermally conducting structure) will be additional needs for spacecraft materials. We have reached a point in the evolution of structural materials where we are moving away from processing naturally occurring materials toward synthesizing designed microstructures to perform specific functions. The mathematical modeling of microstructure–property relationships and new chemical and biotechnical synthesis techniques appear to be critical technologies for the future. In addition, the future materials developer will need a broader understanding of the total structural life cycle so that the impact of utilization, maintenance, and training requirements in the design of new materials can be considered.