Lightweight, advanced structural materials are needed to enable affordable space exploration beyond lower Earth orbit. Composites have been studied and used for these applications for decades, but are still limited to off-optimal, quasi-isotropic designs. Integration of dissimilar fiber layups and novel matrix materials in the composite structure can lead to significant improvements in material properties and performance. However, there is currently no commercial tool to evaluate and design advanced highly tailorable composites with optimal load paths and minimized thermal expansion coefficients.
In the proposed effort, CFD Research and University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) will develop a dual-mode finite element method-based composites design toolkit to model and predict material performance based on various input parameters and loading conditions. Relevant material systems and demonstration cases will be selected in consultation with NASA. Complex mesh generation will be performed in Python, and thermo-structural modeling will be conducted in a well-established FEM software. The toolkit will be flexible, modular, and adopt and open architecture to provide insight into the workflow. Two modes of operation will be enabled: manual parameter selection by the user; and an automated optimization mode, that reads in parameters and constraints from the users, and then performs sensitivity analysis and optimization across the design space.
In Phase I, we will develop the modeling framework and demonstrate key functionality on a representative case. During Phase II, the team will incorporate a detailed composites processing modeling software for more realistic fiber architectures and to assess manufacturability and processing conditions. We will perform microscale damage analysis, and upscale and homogenize material modeling to capture the component or part scale performance under use conditions as part of the overall design workflow.
Any NASA application requiring lightweight, advanced materials could benefit from this solution, including:
Directly supports NASA programs including Artemis/HLS, air-launched systems, and next-generation airframes.
This composite design toolkit will benefit government agencies (DoD, DOE) and contractors (GE, Rolls Royce, Lockheed Martin) developing high-temperature materials for adverse environments, e.g., gas turbine engines, hypersonic vehicles for defense and commercial platforms. Other commercial applications: wind turbine blades, sporting equipment, medical devices and protective equipment, automobiles.