Novel Wing Structural Design

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Aerospace Engineering


One of the leading aircraft design drivers of today is the requirement for more fuel efficient aircraft, this can be
achieved by weight reduction, improved aerodynamic performance or improved engines. Efficient and
environmentally friendly aircraft subsequently become more desirable over their competitors by passing cost
savings to airliners as a large proportion of an airliner's costs are from fuel. Revolutionary aircraft designs are
yet to see their introduction to the aviation industry as many radical designs suffer from potentially higher costs
due to increased maintenance, certification and safety concerns. However, the goals of ACARE Flightpath 2050
may require a more novel approach to some, if not all aspects of aircraft design which may not be achievable
from an evolutionary design process of jet airliners.
The growing application of composite materials has seen relative success in aircraft weight savings in recent
years. For example, the Airbus A350 XWB which has recently entered service has demonstrated fuel burn
reductions of 25% over current competition partly due to its extensive use of composites. For future aircraft, the
environmental goals of Flightpath 2050 seek to achieve a 75% reduction in CO2 emissions, a 90% reduction in
NOx emissions and a 65% reduction in perceived aircraft noise relative to the aircraft of 2000. These goals may
not be achievable solely by replacing the current aircraft's metallic structures with lighter composite
counterparts. In general, recent efforts in aircraft wing design remain focussed on improving traditional,
conventional aircraft structures. There is little exploitation of the specific material properties which have been
achievable from composite materials and even less utilisation of morphing structures in aircraft design, despite
the amount of work that has gone in to developing conceptual morphing capabilities over recent years. Novel
wing box structural design is an area with little research but growing interest and has a potential to be exploited
to promote future wing design. Such designs can move away from conventional layouts which are not fully
integrated or coupled with aircraft aerodynamics and are certainly not optimised for the complex interactions of
This project will focus on developing a new and novel internal wing box that will be structurally tailored to
withstand all of the loads encountered throughout an aircraft's service life. The end goal will be to demonstrate
these capabilities whilst achieving the largest possible weight savings of the wing structure to provide an
overall efficient wing. A lightweight wing validates the assumption that the structure will be inherently flexible
under aerodynamic loads and therefore aeroelastic phenomena will be dominant in the design process. The
proposed design will comprise of a geodesic (truss-like) structure and will potentially incorporate both passive
and active elements to provide adaptive/morphing aspects for an optimised flight profile. The structural
coupling of wing bend-twist deformations during cruise, manoeuvres, gust encounters and aeroelastic
instabilities such as flutter, divergence and control reversal will be scrutinised with varying levels of analysis
and modelling fidelities. The objective of the research is to ascertain all desirable wing configurations for
individual aeroelastic events and provide mechanisms of transitioning to optimal configurations based on a
particular flight regime. To include all events simultaneously in the design will also be considered to find


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509085/1 30/09/2015 30/03/2021
1834921 Studentship EP/N509085/1 10/07/2016 09/07/2020