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ESENSE: Tooling enabling temperature homogeneity and embedded graphene sensors

The growing demand for composite materials in aerospace due to lightweight advantages over their metallic counterparts has given a new impetus to the development of eco-friendly, cost-effective composite manufacturing processes. A350 XWB and Boeing 777X use more than 50% composites by weight, with the latter having the world's largest aircraft wings formed from composite materials.

Historically, aerospace composites have been manufactured using autoclave processes. Although autoclaves comprise the benchmark manufacturing technique that ensures high-quality composite components, their high costs for acquisition and operation, long production time and inflexible manufacturing pose serious challenges to the aerospace industry.

ESENSE aims to bring to market a more versatile and less costly, self-heated Out-of-Autoclave (OOA) tooling solution with multiple heating zones and advanced thermal management in order to eliminate the need for costly and energy-intensive autoclaves. It will introduce and combine two complementary niche technologies, building on consortium partners' previous work in heating technologies and thermal control management, to optimise the heating efficiency of the tooling and achieve temperature homogeneity even in complex shapes targeting the manufacture of thermoset composite parts.

ESENSE objectives are:

  1. Design of complex composite tooling with an integrated multi-zone self-heated system utilising Energy Carbon's composite heating fabric and HCS's graphene heated ink, achieving efficient localised heating and temperature homogeneity eliminating temperature variations.
  2. Development and optimisation of the advanced graphene sensors embedded in the part, which are at least 5Χ more sensitive than conventional solutions. Two distinct formats will be used: the percolative sensor measuring temperature during the manufacturing process and strain during service and a capacitive sensor measuring resin conductivity during the manufacturing process facilitating cure monitoring.
  3. Development of advanced in-situ monitoring and real-time data acquisition of actual material properties at specific critical locations, enabling quality signature of every part.

ESENSE's benefits are:

  1. 45-55% less costly solution than traditional autoclaves.
  2. First-time-right, high-quality and cost-effective OOA aerospace parts.
  3. Unparalleled part quality assurance with real-time process monitoring and nonintrusive through-life sensing capabilities via embedded graphene ink sensors.
  4. 20% shorter lead times and 15% energy savings throughout the composite curing processing cycle.

Project partners

  • Atlas Composite Technologies (Lead)
  • TWI Ltd
  • Haydale Composite Solutions Ltd
  • Brunel University London
  • Advise-Deta Ltd
  • Haydale Ltd
  • Energy Carbon Ltd

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Mihalis Kazilas
Dr Mihalis Kazilas - Dr Mihalis Kazilas is the Director of the Brunel Composites Centre. He has more than 20 years of experience in the composites processing area. He received his PhD in Advanced Materials from Cranfield University back in 2003. His main field of expertise are polymers characterisation and polymer composites manufacturing and joining processes. He is author of several refereed scientific publications in the area of advanced composites manufacturing and process optimisation. Mihalis is a creative thinker who enjoys problem solving and able to work with different stakeholders to achieve the optimum results in both technical and managerial environments. Work experience: Sep 2019 – present: Business Group Manager, Polymer and Composite Technologies, TWI, UK June 2019 – present: Director of the Non-Metallics Innovation Centre, a joint initiative between TWI, Saudi Aramco and ADNOC Oct 2016 – present: Centre Director, Brunel Composites Innovation Centre, Brunel University London, UK Feb 2012 – 2019: Section Manager, Adhesives, Composites and Sealants (ACS) section within the Joining Process Group at TWI, UK May 2006 – Jan 2012: R&D Consultant, Project Engineer, Collaborative Projects Operations Manager at INASCO, Greece

Related Research Group(s)


Brunel Composites Centre - Shared research and technology capabilities, specialising in novel composites processing and joining technologies applied to industrial environments.

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Project last modified 21/11/2023