Multifunctional Composite Materials

Ref-Nr: TD018

Technology abstract

A Portuguese Composite Materials & Structures Unit of an R&D institute is experienced in composite materials development and manufacturing for space applications and offers the development of resin systems with multifunctional characteristics, their introduction in composite systems and design/manufacturing of multifunctional composite structures for aeronautics/automotive/construction/energy/etc.They look for manufacturing/services agreement or research cooperation.

Technology Description

The Institution has the facilities and experience required to develop modified resin systems that can provide multifunctional characteristics, based on the adaptation of the chemical formulations and on the addition of nanomaterials (such as carbon nanotubes or graphene). They have available suitable mixing and characterisation equipment to evaluate the formulation characteristics (rheometer, gel timer, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetric analysis, dynamic mechanical thermal analysis), including broad experience in the materials selection, handling and characterisation, in particular, with systems that are typically used for Space applications. On the nancomposites level, they have long experience in establishing correlations between formulations compositions with processing characteristics and the final impact on the composite performance.
Their experience also includes preparing Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) structures based on the combination of the modified resin system with the carbon fibres (such as through pre-impregnation, infusion, resin transfer moulding, filament winding, or pultrusion). In addition, multifunctional characteristics have also been introduced in CFRP systems, based on the use of specific types of carbon fibres that typically are used to provide only structural performance. This can be done at a preform fibre level or during the processing. In particular, they have experience in designing composite systems with enhanced thermal performance.
They also have experience in evaluating the final performance of the multifunctional composites and in the definition of test campaigns.

Innovations & Advantages

The modification of the resin systems in typical Space qualified composite materials is seen as a major breakthrough in the development of Space structures with enhanced performance, while significantly reducing their weight, due to the possibility to include multifunctional characteristics.
The adaption of the chemical formulations can lead to new performance levels, from mechanical (for instance by introducing damping characteristics) to thermal (with increased high temperature performance) or even to provide stimuli-responsive or self-repairing characteristics.
In addition, nanomaterials have been thought for long as a way to incorporate multifunctionality in CFRP-based materials, since, in theory, they can provide enhanced reinforcement, improved thermal and electrical conductivity, or improved high temperature performance. Their impact on the final performance depends on the formulation preparation, CFRP manufacturing process and how the final part is (nano)structured. Although the advances until now did not lead to a significant introduction of such materials in CFRP structures, the potential is immense and depends mainly on the understanding of processing and properties correlations.
Finally, multifunctionality can also be provided at a fibre level. The design of composite materials systems that use fibres that combine structural with other properties, such as thermal performance, for instance through the use of insulating or extremely conductive fibres, is explored and considered in the Space systems design. In another aspect, it is known that the combination of different types of fibres can guarantee hybrid performances and, therefore, multifunctional CFRP-based systems can be created, providing a further gaining of performance at low weight for Space and non-space applications.

Further Information

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Current and Potential Domains of Application

· Aeronautics: lightweight structural applications: engines, nacelles, pylons; rotorcrafts; rotor blade manufacturing; large commercial transport; regional and business jets manufacturers; wing spars and fuselage components)
· Automotive: high-end automobile and motor racing; safety cell; body-panels
· Civil engineering: structural engineering applications; retrofitting (e.g. seismic); concrete structures; niche applications in offshore environments
· Construction: fire retardant materials
· Coatings: antistatic / anti-reflection coatings; porous hybrid materials; Corrosion protection; scratch-resistant coatings with hydrophobic or anti-fogging properties.
· Energy: solid-state lithium batteries or supercapacitors (composite electrolyte materials); renewable energy markets: proton conducting membranes used in fuel cells; nanocomposite based devices for electronic and optoelectronic applications including light-emitting diodes, photodiodes, solar cells, gas sensors and field effect transistors.