50: Aeronautics :strong links with industry

When the UTC-Roberval Lab was created, back in 2000, by the merger of the LG2mS (Mechanical engineering and for Materials and Structures) and some other research units, it was placed under a joint hierarchy: UTC and the CNRS. So, what are key features of the Roberval research Lab? Firstly, we can cite the noteworthy, excellent reputation of the research scientists’ teams and the strong links they have built with a variety of industrial sectors.

50: Aeronautics :strong links with industry

Three major research priorities

Zoheir Aboura, full Professor since 2007, heads the Materials and Surface research team at the UTC-Roberval Lab. The team comprises 42 tenured staff (plus PhD and post doc students).

So, what are your research priorities ? We have there essentially - first, assembling and analyzing the behaviour of composite materials and polymers, second, investigating mechanical behaviour and operational resilience and sustainability and third, all issues involved in surfaces, in particular contact mechanics and tribology (science of friction). Of course, in reality, these three areas overlap and interact.Prof Aboura explains: "The first mentioned priority is especially oriented to analysis of the relationships between processes/ properties. The second looks notably at material behaviour, whatever the origins, in connection with the micro, or mesostructures of these materials. The final priority theme looks at surfaces, in particular at problems arising due to friction, parts rubbing together. We also examine the relationship process/properties for metallic materials as assembled using 3D additive fabrication" (3D printing), he adds.

The Material and Surface research team's partnerships go beyond purely academic work. This is borne out by the strong links with the Safran Group that started back in the 1990s. That was when the Group began considering using composites - a combination of fibre strengtheners in a polymer matrix- with 3D reinforcement, in their new engines. "This led to an ambitious research programme being launched by Safran to gain expertise in the assembly of 3D woven reinforced composites. Once the Group had identified the various laboratories in terms of their specific skills, both nationally and internationally, the Group then set out to understand the mechanisms that can trigger material damage and to draft scenarios for possible catastrophic failures occurring. Three families of reinforcement were chosen for testing and analysis: stitching, or tufting, orthogonal weaves or interlocked woven layers", emphasizes Prof Aboura.

This turned out to be a highly rewarding collaboration, since the SAFRAN GROUP finally opted for this architecture, given its extraordinary level of damage tolerance, for the intake compressor blades and the cowling shield of its LEAP engine. So how successful is it? It was introduced in 2016, equips all Boeing 737 Max, 50% of the Airbus 320 NEO and a Chinese passenger aircraft, the Comac C919. What are its advantages? 15% reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, close to 50% decrease in NOx emissions and a significant drop in engine noise. It gradually replaces the CFM56, the most sold jet engine in the world, developed by Safran Aircraft Engines and General Electric.


SAFRAN is an international high-tech group engaged in the designing and assembly of aircraft engines, aeronautical, space and defence equipment.

  • Corporate annual turnover 2018: 21 billion euros
  • R & D budget: 1.5 billion euros, fy 2018
  • Number of patent claims lodged in 2017: 850Number of personnel: 92 000
  • Ranked N° 1 in the world for short and medium range civil aircraft jet engines
  • Ranked N° 1 in the world for helicopter mounted turbine engines
  • Ranked N° 1 in Europe for tactical drones