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ramé-hart Newsletter

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September 2021

A Novel Hydrophobic Material for Aircraft
This month I took my first commercial flight since 2019. The pandemic curtailed a lot of our normal activities - including flying. As I sat in a window seat over the wing of a Boeing 737 with my mask on, I revisited the amazing feat that permits such a large and heavy vessel to be held in the air by wings that are so proportionally small. I'm quite sure that if we could time travel a physicist from the 17th century to today and show him a Boeing 737 for the first time, he would be willing to bet a few pieces of silver that such a beast is incapable of flight.

Despite the marvels of modern flight, the material used to construct aircraft wings really hasn't changed since World War I when aluminum frames and skin replace the highly flammable wood and canvas used in the early biplanes. By the end of the Great War most planes had aluminum wings which were stronger, lighter, and didn't catch on fire. A hundred years later and not much as changed in terms of the material used for aircraft skins. It's still mostly aluminum.

Researchers at North Carolina State University and NASA's Langley Research Center have proposed a polymer infused steel composite metal foam (CMF) as a novel material that outperforms aluminum in aircraft wings.1 The material consists of a steel matrix infused with hollow metal spheres and then immersed in a hydrophobic epoxy resin. The resulting material is stronger than aluminum but no heavier.

Of interest to us are the wetting properties of CMF. In studies, infused CMF exhibited average water contact angles in excess of 130° which is hydrophobic and approaching superhydrophobic and significantly higher than the water contact angle of aluminum - even treated. Water on the wings is not ideal. In liquid form, water buildup leads to deteriorated performance. However, in frozen form, ice buildup can be deadly and even bring a plane down.

In addition to improved hydrophobicity, the infused CMF will reduce insect adhesion and has a longer life resulting in lower operating and maintenance costs. And the improved performance will result in lower fuel costs. While aluminum is and has been the material of choice for aircraft wings, infused CMF invites engineers to consider a cutting-edge alternative that offers some compelling advantages - not the least of which is increased hydrophobicity.

1 Polymer infused composite metal foam as a potential aircraft leading edge material https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsusc.2019.144114.

After publication we learned that we incorrectly reported the water contact angle of CMF as 130°. It should read 130% higher than the contact angle of aluminum.

Chip Shortage
By now you've probably heard of the chip shortage. At the start of the pandemic, everything shut down. The chip makers, anticipating reduced demand, cut production. When the economy came storming back to life later in 2020, the chip makers had a hard time ramping back up fast enough to meet demand. This has been a particularly vexing challenge for automakers. However, virtually every industry has felt supply chain pain caused by shortages of chips. We are no exception. Our cameras use high-end chips that are in short supply - some with lead times in the months.

We have reacted to this disruption by increasing our inventories where possible and finding other creative solutions - such as offering free upgrades to our 750 fps U2 Series camera for purchasers of our higher-end instrument models. Despite the strong demand for our instruments and the relatively short current supply of camera chips, we are working fervently to ensure an uninterrupted supply of ramé-hart instruments to our customers. We are anticipating that the bottleneck will be limited to Q4.


Carl Clegg
Director of Sales
Phone 973-448-0305
Contact us


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