Predicting failure risk in aircraft composites


Paul Davidson

Assistant Professor Paul Davidson

Mechanical and aerospace engineering Assistant Professor Paul Davidson is building predictive tools to help determine the life, durability, and safety of composites used in current and next-generation aircraft.

In the aviation industry, it’s becoming more common to construct lighter and more robust aircraft with layers of composite materials laminated together. But this process introduces challenges, including the risk of delamination—the separation of those layers—due to projectile impact, something that can result in catastrophic structural failure. To evaluate this risk, field maintenance teams use portable ultrasound equipment to estimate the overall damage to the aircraft. However, it does not provide the extent and morphology of that damage.

For his project, Dr. Davidson is developing a predictive tool that will use this incomplete ultrasonic data to determine the composite structure’s failure risk and operating life. He and his team also aim to answer questions about required repairs, how long they will last, and whether the aircraft can operate again.

“We are infilling missing data using machine learning and computational tools to determine composite life, durability, and safety,” Davidson says.


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