Thermal Simulation and Testing of Expanded Metal Foils Used for Lightning Protection of Composite Aircraft Structures 2013-01-2132
Since the 1960's, lightning protection of aircraft has been an important design aspect, a concern for the flying public, aircraft manufacturers and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). With the implementation of major aircraft structures fabricated from carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) materials, lightning protection has become a more complicated issue to solve. One widely used material for lightning strike protection of CFRP structures within the aerospace industry is expanded metal foil (EMF). EMF is currently used in both military and commercial passenger aircraft. An issue that has historically been an area of concern with EMF is micro cracking of paint on the composite structure which can result in corrosion of the metal foil and subsequent loss of conductivity. This paper addresses the issues of stress and displacement in the composite structure layup which contribute to paint cracking caused by aircraft thermal cycling. The analysis of EMF by computer modeling is made using commercially available COMSOL Multiphysics software that is supported by data from limited experimental testing. Variables that are explored include width, height, mesh aspect ratio, weight, composition and surface layup structure. Horizontal displacement profiles parallel to the surface are utilized for performance comparisons.