Low cost, low environmental impact, fire-retardant sandwich panel for aeroplane interiors (FR-Plane)


"This project will develop a new generation of low cost, lightweight, environmentally friendly sandwich panels for aircraft interior applications. The panels will be based on novel low cost, low environmental impact materials and will be manufactured using rapid, highly efficient moulding and finishing processes. This will lead to simultaneous step changes in productivity and sustainability in sandwich panel manufacturing, whilst meeting the performance requirements for aircraft interiors, including fire, smoke and toxicity (FST).

Aircraft interior panels must pass very stringent FST tests which limits the choice of materials that can be used in their construction. Most aircraft interior sandwich panels are made from phenolic composite skins, which contain hazardous chemicals (phenol and formaldehyde), and Nomex honeycomb core which is expensive and also contains phenolic. The panel manufacturing process can be slow, especially if it is necessary to bond the skins and core together using a separate adhesive. Also phenolics give a poor surface finish, which requires costly preparation before applying a decorative finish. Therefore, aircraft interior manufacturers are keen to identify alternative materials and processes, which are safer, faster and cheaper, in order to future-proof their business.

In this project, the composite skins will be made from polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA), a resin derived from biomass waste, which is safer than phenolic and has excellent FST characteristics. The project will identify the most suitable lightweight fibre reinforcement and will develop low cost, sustainable alternatives to Nomex core. The project will develop a rapid, highly efficient process for manufacturing the sandwich panels in high volumes and a novel method for finishing and decorating the panels.

If successful, the project will lead to a significant improvement in productivity, reduced costs and a breakthrough in the use of sustainable materials in aircraft. This is expected to generate significant additional revenue for the UK supply chain and many high-value jobs."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Composites Evolution Limited, Chesterfield £138,702 £ 97,091


Trb Lightweight Structures Limited, Huntingdon £88,327 £ 52,996


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