Lighter, faster and greener aircraft from Universities of Bristol and Exeter

The University of Bristol is closely involved in the organisation Great Western Research, which orchestrates research collaborations between business and higher education. 

One project coordinated by Great Western Research is exploring the potential of ‘smart materials’ – materials which can radically change shape in an electric field. The research involves a partnership between Bristol and the universities of Bath and Exeter, with funding from Airbus UK jointly supporting 8 PhD studentships.

The research may have long term technological potential, with the possibility of faster and more efficient flights, but investigations are at an early stage. Much of the research involves fundamental ‘blue sky’ investigations into the properties of exciting new materials.

Martyn Cantrell, composites engineer and project manager with Airbus for GWR, explained how this initial research was valuable to the company:

“For Airbus it helps develop our understanding of future technologies and what benefits they offer.  As it's very blue sky, in terms of potential and products to take to the market, that's not what we are expecting. It's about the idea.”

Policy area

Related case studies