New material could lead to quieter aircraft engines

Scientists at the University of Bath have created a new and very light material that they believe could help reduce the noise produced by aircraft engines. The material is a graphene oxide-polyvinyl alcohol aerogel that weighs 2.1 kilograms per cubic meter. It's billed as the lightest sound insulation material ever manufactured, and the team behind its creation believes it could be used as insulation for aircraft engines.Used as an insulation material for aircraft engines, it could reduce noise by up to 16 decibels, reducing the jet engine's takeoff roar from 105 decibels to a sound closer to that of a hairdryer. A hairdryer isn't exactly a quiet appliance, but it's significantly quieter than an aircraft engine.

The aerogel is a consistency similar to a meringue set atop a lemon pie and has the potential to be used inside aircraft engine nacelles. One of the key aspects of the design of the material is that it would add almost no overall weight to the engine to which it was applied. In addition to damping sound, the material also offers better heat dissipation which could help fuel efficiency and safety.

The new aerogel was created by researchers from Bath's Materials and Structures Center, with the research led by Professor Michele Meo, who described the invention as a very exciting material that could be applied in a number of ways. He believes the material has uses in aerospace but could potentially be used in automotive, marine transport, and building and construction industries.

The team is clear that while the initial focus is working with partners in aerospace industries to test the material as a sound insulator for engines, they also plan to pursue other applications. The material could find its way into panels used to build helicopters or inside car engines. The expectation is that the lightweight aerogel material will be on the market and ready for use within 18 months.