Utilizing Thermal Management Materials in Aviation

The aviation industry is faced with rising costs and demand, and so is experiencing significant change. Morgan Advanced Materials explains what must be considered with fire protection blankets and thermal management and why compromise is not an option in times of revolution.

Utilizing Thermal Management Materials in Aviation

Image Credit: Morgan Advanced Materials - Thermal Ceramics 

Demand for flights has increased to correspond with growth in disposable income among developed and developing economies. The aerospace industry is responding accordingly.

Fewer aircraft are being retired, fleets are becoming larger, and a new wave of low-cost carriers has entered the market. However, fuel prices have continued to rise steadily. Manufacturers and operators are seeking cost-efficiencies that they can pass on to their customers to offset these increases.

The development of fuel-efficient, lightweight aero-engines is one solution, and saving costs in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) is another, which represents a significant investment.

The commercial aerospace industry spent about $ 75.5 bn USD on MRO in 2018 alone, according to Visiongain. Every aspect and product of MRO is subject to cost scrutiny, including high temperature insulation blankets, which is one part that must not be compromised.

In this case, it is crucial that products are considered for their long-term capabilities and performance in addition to their price point. These high temperature insulating blankets are vital components of aviation safety that are utilized to absorb heat and protect aircraft, engines and passengers.

Usually, they are single use items that are only ever replaced in the event of product failure or fire. The costs involved here are also significant. One major airline spent around $ 500,000 USD in 2018 on insulating its fleet, evidence that there is clearly a need to search for cost-savings.

Insulating Blankets and Materials - Not a Question of Why, But ‘which’

Aerospace engines operate at extremely high temperatures, with exhaust gas temperatures frequently reaching up to 800 °C (1,472 °F), particularly when the thrust reverser is activated.

In addition to containing engine fire and absorbing heat, the aircraft’s wings also require protection, as do the vital components, including the flight data recorder. Specifications are rigorous as there is so much at stake.

The industry has turned to proven and trusted solutions as this is ultimately about protecting passengers. One product has dominated the market for decades: Min-K® microporous insulation from the Thermal Ceramics business of Morgan Advanced Materials.

Min-K® combines the low thermal conductivity of microporous insulation with the high temperature resistance of textile fabrics. It was a revolutionary product when it was first introduced, and it is still the market leader.

The world’s commercial and military aerospace engineers have worked with Morgan to customize it to their own applications since its launch. It is a mainstay of the aerospace market, with approvals from numerous leading manufacturers, including Boeing.

Yet, while insulating materials like Min-K® microporous are non-negotiable, the industry is facing more challenges with costs. So, with cost pressures growing, what do engineers look for when assessing the benefits and the materials’ value proposition?

Thermal Efficiency

Thermal efficiency is the number one criterion, with low thermal conductivity and high temperature resistance being key measures. Min-K® microporous insulation is tested according to the ASTM C177 test method.

ASTM C177 supplies measuring accuracy within 3-5% by utilizing the thermal conductivity test method and is widely accepted as the definitive standard for aerospace. Min-K® microporous insulation has shown that it has one of the lowest thermal conductivity rates on the market.

Versatility

Thermal management materials and fire blankets are employed for a number of different shapes and applications, Whether it is wrapping around engine modules or ‘boxing’ in the flight recorder. Min-K® microporous insulation is extremely versatile in this respect as it is available in a variety of formats.

It can be custom molded and machined into specific geometries when in its rigid form. It can be shaped to accommodate awkward spaces and challenging applications as a flexible panel or sheet that is supplied in 1 m by 1 m sheets - but always with the same levels of thermal performance.

Vibration

Clearly, the vibration of components and machinery is an ever-present issue in aerospace, resulting in the insulation blanket shifting and relocating, or even tearing. At best, the consequences are decreased insulation, or at worst, a complete void.

Min-K® microporous insulation has excellent resistance to vibration, as an extremely lightweight material with high compressive strength.

Quality

There can be no compromise in terms of quality in aerospace applications.

Manufactured and controlled under the gold standard for the aerospace industry - the AS9100 Rev D Quality Management System (QMS) - Min-K® microporous insulation sets the benchmark for excellence, providing exceptional thermal performance and absolute peace of mind.

A huge advantage of implementing this system is that throughout development, actions to address risks and opportunities are continually identified. This ensures that any threats to product safety are mitigated.

Faster Installation and Reduced Wastage

Unraveling thermal blankets is not only an issue when utilized, it is also hugely challenging for installers. The material starts to lose its shape and integrity if the stitching begins to unravel.

Ultimately, once this happens, it is unlikely that it can be utilized and must be scrapped. However, with the unique lock stitching employed in Min-K microporous insulation, costs are saved on two separate fronts; wastage is decreased and installation is faster.

Approvals

Business Process

As a versatile material, Min-K® microporous insulation can be employed for a large variety of applications, eliminating the requirement for specifying multiple materials and simplifying business processes. Morgan Advanced Materials also provides a bespoke engineering facility, decreasing manufacturing lead time and costs.

Support

Reliable support is something that all products benefit from. As an established materials specialist, Morgan offers global access to its R&D, applications engineering and customer service teams, which combine to provide technical and product support at all stages.

Furthermore, the specialist product portfolio provides customers with a wide variety of solutions to a large range of materials and thermal challenges.

Sailing too Close to the Wind

The search is on for more cost-effective products and solutions as pressures mount on operators and OEMs. There are also pressing questions of quality and safety. These are non-negotiable factors in terms of thermal and fire protection. Quite simply, bargaining on mission-critical applications means taking unnecessary risks.

Min-K® microporous insulation remains the material of choice for the aerospace industry and was developed by a world-leading materials specialist and proven in countless applications over decades.

While delivering capital cost savings may well be needed, the whole picture must be considered when it comes to these components. It is necessary to account for what long-term cost savings we can achieve in terms of ease of installation and durability.

Crucially, it provides class-leading performance in the discipline it’s designed for; protecting passengers and your assets.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Morgan Advanced Materials - Thermal Ceramics.

For more information on this source please visit Morgan Advanced Materials - Thermal Ceramics.

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