Expected Impact

Initiating a radically new line of technology by establishing Proof-of-Principle of a new technological possibility and its new scientific underpinning: ICARUS will open and boost the exploration route to a new generation of multinary stable nc alloys of superb strength and relatively low density, or potentially able to combine such mechanical properties with enhanced resistance to radiation damage.

While the alloys developed and the method to design them will have a broad application spectrum, ICARUS will focus on the needs and requirements in two areas, namely aeronautics and space.

In the space exploration and satellite sector ICARUS will address space materials and processes qualifications driven by high reliability, performance and harsh space environment (radiation, temperature etc.). This is combined with limited availability of raw materials and low volumes in terms of units, yet with sometimes very complex manufacturing processes.

In the Aeronautics sector, the high level drivers set out by the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe (ACARE) lead to materials technology requirements related to reduction in mass, increased temperature capabilities, and reduced cost through the use of new materials with low density, mechanical properties unaffected by high temperatures and simpler production and maintenance processes, so as to be used in primary and secondary structures, cabin elements and engine structures.

In this regard, ICARUS will strongly impact the aerospace sector providing a new methodology for exploring and tailoring properties “a la carte” for new families of super alloys.

In particular, ICARUS will provide an answer to the high temperature present challenges in aviation: improved materials for engines, and lightweight temperature resistant materials for supersonic flight regimes.

The new generations of alloys deriving from ICARUS will have the following impacts on the aviation industry:

  1. More efficient use of resources and energy;
  2. Reductions in aviation’s negative environmental impact through the use of lighter and recycle structures in aviation;
  3. Reduction in manufacturing and maintenance costs and lead time;
  4. Reduction in the certification/standardisation costs.

As an example, to demonstrate the importance of ICARUS just consider the satellite launching and manufacturing market. When a satellite is launched into space, the customer (or taxpayer) pays approximately $10,000 to $20,000/kg. Every kilogram saved in the payload's weight means a kilogram less thrust needed from the booster. That translates into a double saving in fuel that has to be hauled along for the ride as well as in the airframe of the launch vehicle itself. The structural cost of an unmanned spacecraft runs to around $5,000 per kg. ICARUS weight reduction perspectives will boost space travel and satellite market. In terms of market size, just an outlook on the development of the satellite production indicates the growing importance of non- European markets. This is already reflected in successful contracts of European manufacturers. The number of satellites expected for 2014-2023 to be manufactured is 252, with 81% of them previewed delivered outside EU. According to SIA, global satellite industry grew 3% in 2013 (195.2 Billion $) slightly outpacing both predicted worldwide economic growth (2.4%) and U.S. growth (2.8%).

Imagine the possibility of high-speed aerial communications thanks to a new generation of materials allowing safe supersonic flights (at Mach > 3.0), presently unfeasible because of materials structural and thermal resistance, or the possibility of long exploratory space missions without radiation risks to the crew, allowing a new era for humankind.

Aviation: Through ICARUS a new family of lightweight high resistance alloys, half dense but five times strengthen (up to 5-6 GPa) would be possible, and using it in critical components of a plane (i.e. bearings), implies less weight, what is equivalent to lower fuel consumption and therefore lower CO2 emission. Just consider that introducing such a material in the body and land nose landing gears bearings of an Airbus A310 would probably save around 110 kg, which will result in saving 32.965 kg CO2 equivalent per year. For a mid-size jet such as a Boeing 757-200, ICARUS alloys would be able to introduce from 1 to 3 tonne reduction in weight, thus improving fuel economy by around 1-3% in the cruise. For smaller aircraft, e.g. Boeing 737-300, this figure rises to 1.6-4.8%. Additionally, ICARUS would allow a substantial turbine operation temperature increment (50°C increase at turbine inlet temperature, leads to 1-1.33% increase in engine efficiency, allowing less fuel to be burnt for the same thrust output). As CO2 emissions are in a 1:1 ratio with fuel  urn, these reductions relate directly to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. Massive fuel savings and reduced costs lead to higher accessibility of flying for general population and thus improvement of mobility within EU and outside, boosting economy by easy transfer of people and skills will be also a medium term consequence.

Space: Apart from weight and fuel savings at launch, ICARUS would support the trend towards rapid-response micro-satellites and mini-satellites, and will contribute to the EU Copernicus (aiming at achieving an autonomous, multi-level operational Earth observation capacity) and Sentinel ESA programmes (which include radar and super-spectral imaging for land, ocean and atmospheric monitoring). Moreover, ICARUS new low-weight radiation shielding families of alloys would protect satellites from space radiation and solar flares in such an effective way, that the risk of global failure by a solar storm like the one happened on 1929 would be reduced in 80%.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 713514.

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