Our world seems to have shrunk dramatically in the last few years. The public has embraced the opportunities offered by cheap travel. The tremendous expansion of low-cost airlines has been seen in every corner of the globe. Meanwhile, the cost of trains and car hire have dropped to compete.
A driving force behind this rapid expansion in travel has been the growth in developing and using new, strong materials, such as carbon composites, plastics and metal alloys. These lightweight material do not compromise on strength and safety.
At the same time, many of these new materials – particularly plastics – are simpler and cheaper to form and mould. This has the overall impact of lowering the building costs of vehicles – be they aeroplanes, trains or cars. It also fits well with the growing ‘green agenda’ of lower fuel and energy consumption.
However, with the deployment of new materials comes the challenge of ensuring their safety – including ‘fire safety’.
Plastics- the key to more climate-friendly air travel
In all modern aircraft, plastics are used for a vast range of internal parts, including sidewalls, bulkheads and overhead luggage bins. There are also synthetics used in seat padding and for carpets. Their use helps dramatically reduce the overall weight of the aircraft and thus improves its fuel economy.
In an aircraft, any fire poses a huge threat to safety; clearly these new materials must be safe and fireproof. Fortunately, the use of modern flame retardants means that regulators around the world are happy to certify these novel materials as ignition resistant and safe for use in this most demanding of environments.