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Composites Materials Research Challenges

Ignaas Verpoest
Composite Materials Group,
Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Belgium

Elementary steps for manufacturing a composite part

Fibres

Weaving

Braiding etc Knitting


Resin/matrix

Impregnation

Consolidation COMPOSITE

Some examples of composite applications

LIGHTNESS STIFFNESS

STRENGTH

Unidirectional composites: density and stiffness


Plastics: typically between 1 and 1.3 kg/lit

Plastics: typically between 1 and 3 GPa

UD-composites vs. metals: specific stiffness


for tension

for bending

Composites easily outperform metals Carbon fibre composites are superior Natural fibre (flax) composites compete with glass fibre composites
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Result: potential for weight reduction

Weight: 420kg 1275kg Consumption: 2.17 4.1 l/100km

BMW i3

Intrinsic advantages of (polymer) composites


Strength&stiffness of metals + lightness of polymers
lightweigth structures and products energy efficiency for transportation applications
In cars: consumption decreases by 0,3 0,4 lit/100km per 100kg weight saving! High potential for use in electric cars because of range extension

Durability compared to metals


fatigue: increased use in commercial airplanes corrosion: increased use in construction

Note: following statements apply only to long fibre, not to short fibre composites
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Challenges and opportunities for composites


Why is the composites market share still too low ?
Material cost
Mainly carbon fibres are a problem

Manufacturing speed
Fast curing TS New TP-based processes Automation

Recycling :
get organised to meet the challenges!

Improved damage tolerance:


New concepts of multiscale, nano-engineered damage tolerant composites

New opportunities for composites: reduce LCI !


Use of biobased matrices Use of biobased fibres Low-LCI carbon fibres!!!
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Challenge 1: material cost of composites


Only partially (proportional to weight fraction) dependent on polymer matrix cost
Glass fibre composites (GFRP): polymer cost ~= fibre cost (<2/kg)! Carbon fibre composites (CFRP): polymer cost <<< fibre cost ( > 20/kg)!

Key factor (for high performance composites):


Preparation of fibrous preforms (weaves, non-crimp fabrics, prepregs..) Cost of carbon fibres: > 20/kg

urgent need for


low(er) cost carbon fibres not necessarily with same high stiffness/strength (compromise between
glass and carbon)

Challenge 2: manufacturing cost of composites


Actual situation still reflects origins:
CFRP: mainly aerospace, rather small series, high performance targets but also sports applications: large series manufacturing know-how GFRP: more diverse applications and manufacturing methods still lots of small series, manual manufacturing, little mechanisation, almost no automation

Situation is different for TP and TS:


TS: TP: Cure cycle duration is bottleneck Expensive but more secure prepreg routes vs. cheaper resin infusion methods

Potential for much faster production cycles but fundamentally different from TS-methods new investments in

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Challenge 2: manufacturing cost of composites


urgent need for fast curing TS matrices
curing time < 3 min while keeping other properties similar Example: EU-FP7-project HIVOCOMP

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Challenge 2: manufacturing cost of composites


urgent need for
New TP-based processes
Integration of compression moulding (=long fibre reinforcements) with injection moulding (short fibres) See example EELCEE In-situ polymerisation of TP matrices for large parts

Automation
Fibre/tow placement Preshaping before infusion Integrated TP forming & finishing lines

Courtesy of EELCEE

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Challenge 3: recycling of composites


Two possibilities are available:
Recycle as a composite:
Easy for TP-composites, but If the starting material is a long/continuous fibre composite, the recycled material will have short(er) fibres, and hence lower properties downgrading

Recycle fibres and matrix separately, by:


Burning off the matrix (energy recuperation) only fibres recycled Depolymerising the matrix both fibres and mono/oligomers are recycled

Third way:
Burning of glass-fibre composites in cement ovens: plastics heat, and glass fibres cement actually not accepted as real recycling

CHALLENGE:
Logistics: create a profitable recycling system in Europe For GFRP For CFRP with carbon fibre recuperation Technology: further develop de-polymerisation of TS matrices Perception: for most products, recycling is minor part of LCI !!!
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Challenge 4: damage tolerance of composites


stress Damage tolerance indicators: Brittleness (due to fibers)
Weak out-of-plane properties
(matrix and interface properties)

Early onset of damage


(due to stress concentrations generated by inhomogeneous material microstructure)

strain

~2%

Matrix cracks

Fiber breakage

The need for tougher (more durable) composite materials

Delaminations

(L. Gorbatikh, KU Leuven)

bone

Localized damage

Distributed damage

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Challenge 4: damage tolerance of composites


Strategies for more damage tolerant composites
Nano-modification
of matrices, fiber/matrix interfaces, fibers
Glass Fibers sized with CNTs

Ductile fibers
(steel, CNT fibers, silk, )
Steel fibers Carbon nanotube fibers

Hybridization
(self-reinforced polymers, ductile fibers, )

Intelligent use of structure


(self-assembly, )
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(L. Gorbatikh, KU Leuven)

Challenges and opportunities for composites


Why is the composites market share still too low ?
Material cost
Mainly carbon fibres are a problem

Manufacturing speed
Fast curing TS New TP-based processes Automation

Recycling :
get organised to meet the challenges!

Improved damage tolerance:


New concepts of multiscale, nano-engineered damage tolerant composites

New opportunities for composites: reduce LCI !


Use of biobased matrices Use of biobased fibres Low-LCI carbon fibres!!!
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New opportunities for composites: reduce LCI !


Why is LCI of composites a problem??
Polymers (=matrix) have a higher environmental impact (per kg) than steel Carbon fibres have a tremendous impact ( 286 MJ/kg, compared to 50 for glass fibres and ~35 for steel)

Can only be compensated by lower LCI during use phase!

R. Witik, EPFL, 2013


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New opportunities : biobased matrices!


The polymer matrix accounts for
> 50% of embodied energy (or CO2) in GFRP ~ 25 % of embodied energy (or CO2) in CFRP

Application of biobased (NOT biodegradable) polymers as matrix in composites is urgently needed


LCI (cradle-to-gate) should be assessed direct use preferred over synthesis from biobased raw materials because of higher potential for decreasing LCI-ctg Example: research on gluten @ KU Leuven

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New opportunities : biobased fibres!


Natural fibres have enormous potential for LCI-reduction with minor property loss:

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Four natural fibres studied at K.U.Leuven

FLAX

BAMBOO

COIR/ COCONUT

JUTE

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2013 FLAX AND HEMP REINFORCEMENTS


DRY PREFORMS
short fibres Roving Compound

PRE-IMPREGNATED PREFORMS
Thermoset prepreg

Non-woven

Weaves

Non-crimp fabrics Thermoplastic prepreg UD prepreg

New opportunities : low-LCI carbon fibres!


High ctg-LCI of carbon fibres hinders application in LCI-conscious products

R. Witik, EPFL, 2013

urgent need for alternative


Precursors for carbon fibres (replacing PAN) Conversion technologies (more efficient heating,)

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Conclusion
To increase composites market share still too low ?
Reduce material cost Increasse manufacturing speed
Fast curing TS New TP-based processes Automation

Get recycling organised Improve damage tolerance:


Using multiscale approaches

New opportunities for composites: reduce LCI !


Use of biobased matrices Use of biobased fibres Low-LCI carbon fibres!!!
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Flax and hemp reinforcements of 2013


FIBRES COMPOUND

Flax and hemp reinforcements of 2013


NON WOVEN NON-CRIMP FABRIC

Flax and hemp reinforcements of 2013


WEAVES PRE-IMPREGNATED MIXED WEAVES (met thermoharders) (met thermoplasten)

2013 FLAX AND HEMP REINFORCEMENTS


UD PREPREGS

ROVING