Rapid and Energy-Efficient Manufacturing of Multifunctional Fiber-Reinforced Composites

M. Yourdkhani, I. Naseri
Colorado State University,
United States

Keywords: composites, advanced manufacturing, sustainable, energy-efficient, carbon fiber, nanostructured heaters, aerospace, wind energy


Fiber-reinforced composites are lightweight and strong materials used in many structural applications. Conventional manufacture of composites is slow and energy-intensive and requires expensive equipment. In addition, composites lack the electrical conductivity required for most structural applications (e.g., for lightning protection, de-icing), typically accounted for by using heavy, parasitic metal attachments. We have developed a new approach for one-step, rapid, and energy-efficient manufacturing of multifunctional composites without any expensive equipment. We use novel cure-on-demand resins that cure within few seconds to minutes in response to a thermal stimulus. The heat required for initiating the polymerization of resin is provided by a thin heater embedded in the composite laminate, which also imparts new functions (e.g., de-icing, self-sensing) to the host structure during its service. Using this sustainable manufacturing technique, we can produce multifunctional, high-performance composites within minutes with several orders of magnitude less energy and carbon emission compared to conventional techniques.