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Students win with project on bio-composite materials made from castor plant
Article Type: University and research news From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 21, Issue 6
A team of students from the University of Queensland (Australia) won the inaugural Airbus “Fly Your Ideas” challenge at the recent Paris-Le Bourget Air Show. The “COz” team won for its project into the use of the castor plant to develop the first ever single plant-based high-performance composite materials for aircraft cabin components. The goal is to reduce dependency on non renewable sources and improve end of life disposal thus contributing to a reduction of aviation carbon footprint. They conducted a comprehensive feasibility analysis entailing fibre production and testing, demonstrating very encouraging mechanical and environmental properties.
The multinational “COz” team comprises team leader, Michael Heitzmann (27), of Swiss origin and Alex Ng (25), originally from Hong Kong, both PhD students in Mechanical Engineering, and third team member, Benjamin Lindenberger (26), from Germany, an Aerospace Engineering student who is undertaking his University of Stuttgart diploma thesis at the University of Queensland.
“We wanted to demonstrate that composite materials made entirely with Castor plant fibre can reduce the aircraft carbon footprint and enhance environmental protection. We are extremely proud to have convinced the jury with our project and we hope it will have a future in aviation.” said Michael Heitzmann, COz team leader.
The students were congratulated at the ceremony, at Le Bourget, by Tom Enders, president and chief executive officer of Airbus, who awarded the €30,000 prize to the winning team. The second place team from National University of Singapore, “Solaire Voyager”, received a prize of €15,000 for its proposal to use solar cell technology integrating photovoltaic cells aboard aircraft to generate electricity.
More than 2,350 students from 82 countries around the world entered the competition, which started nine months ago. The students' objective was to come up with innovative and eco efficient ideas to shape the future of aviation, and deliver a further reduction in the industry's impact on the environment. The competition was also designed to attract more young people to this crucial industry.
The other three finalists were (by team name alphabetical order):
“Big Bang Team” from Universidad Politécnica de Valencia in Spain for its windowless cabin proposal for a new eco-efficient aircraft design.
“Kometa Brno” from Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic whose team developed a project on aircraft taxiway movements using electro-motors.
“Stanford ADG” from Stanford University in the USA for its proposal on inverted V formation flight, building on the model of migrating birds to reduce energy consumption.
The short-list of five teams presented their final proposals to a special grand jury in the centre of Paris. The jury was comprised of five internationally renowned independent experts and five Airbus representatives specialised in fields such as engineering, the environment, human resources, strategy and marketing.
“We were truly impressed by the effort made by all five teams, the high quality of their projects, their presentation and the command they had of their subject areas”, declared Patrick Gavin, Airbus executive vice-president Engineering, Fly Your Ideas contest patron and jury President. We were looking for challenging “blue-sky”, creative thinking, and all the teams demonstrated this. If these students represent the future of aerospace, then it promises to be an exciting future!