Graphene Insulation Could Reduce Aircraft Noise By 80%

Researchers at Bath University have developed a graphene-based insulation material which could reduce aircraft noise by up to 80%. The Engineer reports that the graphene oxide-polyvinyl aerogel, which weighs 2.1kg per cubic metre, is the lightest sound insulation ever manufactured.

The research team claim that the material could reduce aircraft engine noise by up to 16 decibels if it was used as an insulation material. A typical jet engine records 105 decibels of noise, so the reduction would take the sound ‘closer to that of a hairdryer.’

The material is extremely light due to its ‘meringue-like’ structure, allowing it to be fitted within engine nacelles with almost no additional weight. The researchers are also looking into the heat dissipation potential of the material, which could improve fuel efficiency and reduce the risk of fires.

Professor Michele Meo, research leader, said: “This is clearly a very exciting material that could be applied in a number of ways — initially in aerospace, but potentially in many other fields such as automotive and marine transport, as well as in building and construction.”

Meo compared the research method with whipping egg whites to form meringues, to create a material that is solid but contains a lot of air. Instead of egg whites, a liquid combination of graphene oxide and a polymer was used, and once the air bubbles had formed, the material was freeze-casted and embedded in a honeycomb scaffold.

Researchers from Bath’s Materials and Structures Centre (MAST) have published a method for manufacturing the materials in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The material will be initially tested with aerospace partners, but the team also suggests the aerogel could be used in helicopters and car engines.

It is hoped that the ultralight graphene oxide aerogel could be ready for use for sound absorption purposes, and sound transmission reduction within the engineering industry in around 18 months.

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