Morphing skins

C. Thill*, J. Etches, I. Bond, K. Potter, P. Weaver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

430 Citations (Scopus)


A review of morphing concepts with a strong focus on morphing skins is presented. Morphing technology on aircraft has found increased interest over the last decade because it is likely to enhance performance and efficiency over a wider range of flight conditions. For example, a radical change in configuration, i.e. wing geometry in flight may improve overall flight performance when cruise and dash are important considerations. Although many morphing aircraft concepts have been elaborated only a few deal with the problems relating to a smooth and continuous cover that simultaneously deforms and carries loads. It is found that anisotropic and variable stiffness structures offer potential for shape change and small area increase on aircraft wings. Concepts herein focus on those structures where primary loads are transmitted in the spanwise direction and a morphing function is achieved via chordwise flexibility. To meet desirable shape changes, stiffnesses can either be tailored or actively controlled to guarantee flexibility in the chordwise (or spanwise) direction with tailored actuation forces. Hence, corrugated structures, segmented structures, reinforced elastomers or flexible matrix composite tubes embedded in a low modulus membrane are all possible structures for morphing skins. For large wing area changes a particularly attractive solution could adopt deployable structures as no internal stresses are generated when their surface area is increased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-139
Number of pages23
JournalThe Aeronautical Journal
Issue number1129
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Royal Aeronautical Society

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