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From aeronautics to defense: INEGI creates new high performance and multifunctional composite materials

11 January 2021

It was a 4 year long project, in which INEGI participated alongside 17 partners from 10 European countries, to create new strategies for modifying composites reinforced with continuous carbon fiber (CFRP) with nanomaterials.

MODCOMP (Modified Cost Effective Fiber Based Structures with Improved Multi-Functionality and Performance) has now come to an end, but leaves an important contribution in the field of engineering solutions for the development of composite materials with innovative characteristics: high resistance to delamination and improved multifunctionality, with special focus on electrical and thermal conductivities.

INEGI played an active role in the results achieved, an example of which is the new composite material developed by the Institute's team, a pre-impregnated reinforced at different scales. Multifunctional and with improved mechanical properties, the composite was created "through the incorporation of carbon nanomaterials, with different dimensions and geometries (tubular and lamellar), in thermosetting polymers. This made it possible to achieve excellent synergistic effects", explains Raquel Santos, responsible for the project at INEGI.

Reinforced polymers are versatile materials, with several applications, from wind turbines, and even satellites. However, they have lower conductivity, impact resistance and interlaminar fracture toughness than demanding applications require, namely in the aeronautics, energy, defense, and space sectors. However, with the technique used by INEGI, significant improvements were achieved in mechanical and electrical performance, and in the durability of the material.

In addition to the development of prepregs like this, INEGI’s team also focused "on the preparation of new polymer-based formulations that allow for gains in properties for future expansion and optimization of the manufacturing process", says the researcher.

Developed materials are being tested on real products

Led by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the MODCOMP project consortium aimed to create structural solutions for technical products and thus add value to various industrial sectors.

"Combining high performance, functionality, safety and an affordable cost has been a challenge for materials science and engineering”, says Raquel Santos. "That is why the consortium, with the support of INEGI, sought to advance the state-of-the-art by working on new approaches, innovations with the potential for future industrialization, and sustainable and environmentally-friendly techniques ”.

The demonstration prototypes created within the project, with the materials modified by INEGI’s team, are an example of the wide range of possible applications.

Among the products that incorporate the developed materials considered most promising - carbon fiber fabric and polymer, both modified with different nanomaterials – are a sailing boat, an emergency shelter (pictured) and a mobile garage developed by AP&M and GlobalSafeGuard in collaboration with INEGI and the other members of the consortium, as well as a component for aeronautical application, the result of collaborative work between AERnnova and INEGI.

In the final stretch of the initiative, business partners AP&M and GlobalSafeGuard tested the demonstrators under real conditions to assess their future industrialization.

The results proved to be prosperous and now serve as a basis for the development of intelligent materials with the capacity for self-detection and self-repair, in another project with the participation of INEGI.