By Mabell, Dave on February 11, 2017.
“Composites are the future.”
So many objects – from Lamborghinis to bicycles – will be made out of composite materials, predicts physicist David Naylor.
So, the longtime University of Lethbridge professor is excited about a new link between the university and the Composites Research Network – alongside major institutions like McGill, UBC and the University of Alberta.
“This is a major step forward for the university, putting our research into the hands of industry partners, and creating multiple new opportunities,” says Naylor, the university’s Board of Governors Research Chair for the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
“Being a part of this network will connect us to industry heavyweights like Boeing and Convergent Manufacturing Technologies.”
Composites, he points out, are materials made from two or more different materials, which together offer different characteristics than their original components.
“Composites are stronger than steel, lightweight, have virtually no conductivity – and for what we do in space, they are the perfect answer.”
Boeing’s new 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft contains about 50 per cent composites, he points out. Boeing also operates a space satellite division, he explains, and the U of L could help its designers test new space probes and instruments.
“We’re now partnered with Boeing in exploring this new realm of composite materials,” Naylor reports.
One of the university’s advantages, he says, is its cryogenic test facility – considered the best in Canada. It can determine how materials will stand up to extreme cold.
“We’re the only group that can do this kind of testing,” Naylor says. “We can test material properties at extremely low temperatures, down to 0.3 degrees Kelvin.”
That’s colder than the coldest part of the universe, he explains.
“You wouldn’t think that cryogenics would be at a small university such s ours, but we are anomalous and we bring a unique skill set.”
Naylor also heads the university’s Astronomical Instrumentation Group, which worked as part of the Herschel-SPIRE Consortium and earned him an award from the Royal Astronomical Society.
More recently, the U of L instrumentation group was awarded $500,000 by the Canadian Space Agency to train promising young astronomers and engineers – contributing to Canada’s ability to play leading roles in future space astronomy missions.
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