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Characterisation of Modified Fibre Based Composites

Project Code: TBC


  • To develop characterisation methods suitable for relating the nano-scale features of composite fibres to the macro-scale performance in service
  • To develop an understanding of how modifying the reinforcing fibres can influence the response of the composite under different performance criteria
  • To provide insight into the potential for improving performance in advanced composite structures by use of next generation fibre treatments

Project Outline

The aim of this project is to demonstrate the influence of different surface enhancement and modification techniques on carbon fibre (CF)-based materials for high value and high performance applications. These are enabling technologies for additional functionalities, without compromising structural integrity.

TWI’s role within the MODCOMP project is to develop an understanding of how modifying the reinforcing fibres can influence the response of the composite under different performance criteria. This will provide the tools to allow the material properties to be tailored to the performance required in a range of different industrial applications. This requires the development of characterisation methods suitable for the modified carbon fibre composites produced by other partners within the project against relevant criteria for different specific applications (brake systems, aerospace components etc) evaluating properties such as stiffness, strength, fatigue resistance.

It is important to understand the stability of the nanomaterials within the composite both for safety aspects and structural integrity of the composite. This will include comparative performance assessment of modified and unmodified materials, microscopy based determination of the nanostructured fibres pre-and post composite processing and subsequent testing and evaluation.

The importance of the composite to function under operational conditions will be demonstrated via specific application testing. This will include UV stability using a specialist accelerated weathering chamber, temperature stability of the resin and degradation of the composite via a dynamic mechanical analyser.

Relevant Industry Sectors

Technical and Economic Benefits

Current technological demands are increasingly stretching the properties of traditional materials to expand their application into more severe or extreme conditions, whilst simultaneously seeking cost-effective production processes and final products. Limited multi-functionality has often prevented composites from being more widely adopted. In the aerospace industry metals are still incorporated into structures to impart mechanical integrity and electrical conductivity. It is well known that some surface treatments such as etching the fibre surface may enhance fibre/matrix interface adhesion and hence the stress transfer within the composite due to increased contacting area and possibly strengthened bonding. However, etching can also adversely affect the strength of fibres. The final properties of the fibre-based materials depend on the net contribution of these two opposing effects. It is therefore imperative to optimize the method and extent of treatment to gain the maximum possible enhancement in the performance of composite.

Demand for carbon fibre composites in the Aerospace, Transportation and Wind Energy sectors is expected to grow the most between 2015 and 2019. Currently, CFs are mainly used in applications where high mechanical performance and lightweighting are the most important factors, not necessarily the cost. However, the development of multifunctional fibre composite materials is likely to open the market to a range of new industrial sectors not yet utilising this technology.

The same requirements for large aerofoil structures also largely apply to the wind turbine industry and the project is also relevant to the Automotive sector. The usage of CFs in braking, steering and suspension systems can be advantageous in reducing mass and increasing stiffness, enabling lighter weight design.

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