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UW Aeronautics & Astronautics is a leader in developing aerospace structures that are strong, lightweight and robust.

Structures can be made to withstand extreme conditions, such as large strains, rapid temperature changes, and variable environments while safely transporting precious cargo (including humans) through the atmosphere or into space. Weight, performance, and profitability are closely linked in this field, spurring the use of composite and other advanced materials that have replaced many of the metallic structures previously found in air and spacecraft.

The widespread adoption of composites - combined with advances in additive manufacturing, robotics and automation - has expanded our capacity to manufacture new forms and build unusual flight structures. Our faculty explore new design, test, and manufacturing methods and look at how novel materials are performing across the industry, in a variety of applications. Current research includes design of engineered materials systems (e.g. nanocomposites and metamaterials), structural design, material characterization, non-destructive testing and evaluation, certification and structural health monitoring. In these activities, state of the art computational modeling methods are utilized and new methodologies are developed.

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to design, build, and fly new aircraft concepts in our senior-level Aircraft Design Capstone; the new capstone design class teams, which include personnel from industry, allow students to work on a variety of structural concepts that impact spacecraft, aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. The teams make use of our on-site machine shop, composite lab, and 3D fabrication facility. Graduate students work closely with prominent faculty and collaborative industry partners on contemporary cutting-edge research problems.

Key research areas

  • Aeroelasticity
  • Aircraft Design
  • Composite Materials
  • Fatigue, Vibration and Impact
  • Metamaterials 
  • Solid Mechanics
  • Structural Analysis and Dynamics
  • Wave Propagation

Associated faculty

Research highlights

Inspired by origami, A&A researchers created a model that uses “folding creases” to soften impact forces for potential applications in spacecraft, cars and beyond.

A&A research is advancing work on topological waveguides to absorb or redirect vibrations. Applications can include passenger comfort and safety in vehicles.

A&A research has advanced fuel injection reliability for the Z-pinch plasma confinement scheme for a reactor which aids in stabilizing plasma, a key challenge.

A&A is developing techniques to enhance the structural complexity of composite materials to deliver added strength and flexibilty of uses.

Award highlights

The Boeing Advanced Research Center was awarded $1.2 million from Washington state to advance composites research.

A JCATI grant supported research to recycle composite scraps for new applications, using this compression molding machine, a major industry challenge.