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I am in the very early stages of playing with the idea of an ornithopter derived aircraft. The intention is to be able to scale the resulting aircraft, to passenger (or useful payload) carrying capability.

Is there any material that is simultaneously light - but also strong enough to carry the weight of an aircraft (and it's payload)?

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Aircraft fabric would be too heavy for a person carrying homebuilt orni-contraption. What you are looking for is 3M Mylar/Tedlar. It has been used as a covering material for a number of ultralights like the Lazair for many years.

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  • $\begingroup$ can a material like spandex be used instead of 3M Mylar - as the former is more readily available, cheaper and also crucially has great elasticity. $\endgroup$ – Homunculus Reticulli Jun 24 '18 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ It has to be impermeable. And you don't really want elasticity, just flexibility. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 24 '18 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your prompt response. Am I right in concluding from your answer, that - if I'm able to find impermeable spandex (i.e. airtight), such material would be suitable for use as wing skin (i.e. in terms of weight/strength)?. Does such material (airtight spandex) exist? $\endgroup$ – Homunculus Reticulli Jun 25 '18 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ As I said, stretchy=bad. Spandex would be no good. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 25 '18 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ No idea. You need to select some different products and test them. $\endgroup$ – John K Jun 25 '18 at 15:56
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Yes, cloth has been used for wings since the first powered flights. It is usually doped with a resin to make it less permeable to air.

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