24hr 60x

Textile-based composites could weave future of aerospace engineering

  • Royce researchers use 3D X-ray imaging and demonstrate the degradation of braided textile composites.
  • Discoveries could lead to new design and implementation possibilities for next-generation aerospace engineers.

Researchers at The University of Manchester have demonstrated a comprehensive picture of the evolution of damage in braided textile composites for the first time using the Royce’s world-leading X-ray imaging facilities.

High-specification composite materials can be precisely engineered to suit applications with confidence thanks to new imaging techniques. Textile composites, in particular, offer great potential in creating light-weight damage-tolerant structures. However, their uptake in the high-value manufacturing sector has been inhibited by a lack of adequate design and material performance data.

The latest research published in the Journal of Composites Science and Technology  demonstrates that braided textile composites could be designed with confidence for applications ranging from, aerospace and automotive drive shafts, to sporting equipment such as hockey sticks. Braiding technology had a humble beginning in the textile industry for making such items as shoelaces. Today, the integration of robotics and advanced industrial systems has propelled this technology into the high-value manufacturing domain in sectors such as, aerospace, automotive and energy.

Now for the first time, unique 3D imaging processes have provided real-time data of how carbon fibre composite tubes perform under structural loading, which provides a blueprint for maximising the efficiency of materials used across industry.

The breakthrough research was supported by the Henry Royce Institute’s Chief Scientist Prof Phil Withers and could prolong the lifespan of mechanical systems reliant on materials by definitively demonstrating load and stress points at which damage initiates and progresses from sub-critical to critical damage state.

Following the publication of the paper Prof Withers said:


In-situ X-ray imaging has allowed us to shed light on the 3D nature of the initiation and propagation of damage mechanisms in composite tubes for the first time.


The research utilised the Royce’s world-leading X-Ray imaging facilities based at the University of Manchester one of the most extensive suites of X-ray imaging facilities in the world, with a special focus on in situ time-lapse 3D X-ray imaging.

Prof Prasad Potluri, Research Director of the Northwest Composites Centre and co-author on the paper said:

This is a fantastic opportunity to push the advanced braiding technology through the technology readiness levels with the aid of the in situ X-ray imaging facility at the Henry Royce Institute.

The materials tested and examined in this work were braided carbon fibre composite tubes which are fabricated by braiding the fibre tows into a continuous interlaced helices. Recent advances show there is considerable scope for tailoring braided structure to suit specific service requirements. This flexibility also challenges the design and manufacturing process of braided composites. This potentially impacts the way engineers develop applications for the next generations of aircraft for example.

Original article published by the University of Manchester website 23/01/20.