Integrated Systems for Decarbonising Aviation

Sustainable Development Goal target(s)

  • SDG09 (Industry Innovation and Infrastructure)
  • SDG13 (Climate Action)
Project lead Catherine Jones (Electronic & Electrical Engineering)
Open to year groups
  • UG Year 2
  • UG Year 3
  • UG Year 4
Faculties/departments Electronic & Electrical Engineering;Electrical & Mechanical Engineering;Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Please note: availability can vary between degrees. Please contact your advisor of studies and the project lead for more information.

How to apply

To apply for this project please complete our application form.

Project overview

This project was established with funding from the Lady Curran Endowment Fund as a COP26 Legacy project addressing SDG13: Climate Action.

Integrated Systems for Decarbonising Aviation aims to support the design of resilient, integrated electrical-structural systems to enable the light-weighting of weight critical applications, e.g. transportation. Light-weighting reduces fuel burn, and integrated systems design supports electrification of power systems, leading to reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Of particular interest is aviation, where a significant step change in technology (light-weighting, aerodynamics, power and propulsion systems) is needed to enable decarbonisation of flight by 2050.

This project impacts on targets for UN SDG 13 to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning (target 13.2) and to improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation and adaption (target 13.3), by developing solutions which enable reduced GHG emissions from transportation. This directly supports Scottish, UK and international policy for decarbonisation.

Electrification and light-weighting of structures and systems are critical technological advances underpinning aviation decarbonisation.  Total flights within, and departing from, Europe are expected to rise by 45 % in 2050, compared to 2018 (despite the impact of Covid-19).  Target reductions by 2050 of CO2 by 75 % and NOx by 90%, compared to year 2000 levels have been set by the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050.  The pathway to reducing emissions is via a combination of technology, operations, fuels and economic measures.  Lightweight structures (predominantly carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP)) and electrification have been identified as two of the key enabling technologies to support these areas.

The closer integration of the electrical and structural system provides a route to more compact, more lightweight systems. However, a major challenge is that CFRP is 1000 times less electrically conductive than aluminium.  Therefore at present it cannot form part of the electrical system, even under faulted conditions.  Current solutions to mitigate this challenge require the extensive use of cable raceways and harnesses, to ensure structural and electrical systems are physically separated.  This incurs a significant weight penalty (an additional 30 % of the wiring weight).

What will students be working on?

This project focuses on the design of resilient, compact, lightweight integrated electrical –structural systems, and in particular systems which allow for prognostics and health monitoring such that the occurrence of unexpected, inflight faults is significantly reduced.  Benefits of effective fault prognostics are less operation in off nominal conditions, impacting on electrical power system design and fault management strategy approaches and offering the possibility of lighter-weight electrical system design; less unscheduled time out of service for faulted equipment; ultimately resilient, compact, integrated systems design.

Please note: availability can vary between degrees. Please contact your advisor of studies and the project lead for more information.

Have more questions or want to get involved?

Please contact, or apply for this project.