University of Cincinnati researchers have partnered with Airbus to develop metals that are more durable and less sensitive to corrosion, for aircraft components and structures.

The team is using a laser shock peening (LSP) process that shoots infrared light beams on to pieces of metal to alter its physical, mechanical and environmental properties, while increasing its longevity.

Airbus Americas research and technology director David Hills said: "If we can improve the properties of our aluminium components and reduce their degradation with time, we can extend both the reliability and life of the aircraft."

"We will fortify huge pieces of metal for use in prototypes and, eventually, mass production."

The laser deeply compresses and modifies the structure of the metal thereby fortifying it, researchers said.

University of Cincinnati department of mechanical and materials engineering professor Mannava said: "We hypothesise that, when we use the LSP processes to impart deep, compressive, residual stresses to these components, we strengthen the metal in a very deliberate way, which makes it less likely to fail."

The team is currently evaluating the technology for use in passenger aircraft.

Professor Vijay Vasudevan said: "When we have confirmed the metal itself won’t fail due to fatigue, cracking or corrosion, we will fortify huge pieces of metal for use in prototypes and, eventually, mass production.

"We will also conduct basic research to understand the effects of the process on how the material behaves in order to optimise the process for specific, future applications."

Mannava, Vasudevan and graduate students have tested and fortified several samples so far, the team noted.

Researchers said that the technology can be used for various applications, including medical devices, automobiles, power generation, nuclear imaging components and chemical processing.