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A University of Exeter Engineering expert has been awarded a substantial European research grant aimed at developing more cost-effective and sustainable carbon fibres for the mass market.
Stephen Eichhorn, Professor in Materials Science within Exeter’s Engineering department, has been awarded the €730,000 grant by European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7).Professor Eichhorn’s grant is part of a €10 million large scale investment grant from the EU, which is shared between more than a dozen participants, including Lamborghini, Brembo and Valeol.Professor Eichhorn said: “There is a real worldwide need for cheaper supplies of high volume carbon fibres. The work that we will do at Exeter will contribute to this effort and deliver a real product to a number of end-users. I personally am looking forward to this collaboration, applying my knowledge of materials science to a real-life application”.The collaboration aims to produce carbon fibres- traditionally used in a wide range of everyday items such as car body parts, sporting goods, and even space satellites – more economically by using promising, low-cost sustainable polyethylene precursors.Polyethylene can be derived from three independent sources: bio-ethanol, synthetic oil and recycled plastics. This project will use a pilot scale facility that allows for the design and optimization of continuous carbon fibre processing. In time, this will be scaled up to a larger industrial size plant.Specific carbon composite prototypes will be manufactured and tested throughout the course of the project, to ensure that the new carbon fibre performs as would be expected when manufactured into components.The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) bundles all research-related EU initiatives together under a common roof playing a crucial role in reaching the goals of growth, competitiveness and employment; along with a new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Education and Training programmes, and Structural and Cohesion Funds for regional convergence and competitiveness. It is also a key pillar for the European Research Area (ERA).The broad objectives of FP7 have been grouped into four categories: Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. For each type of objective, there is a specific programme corresponding to the main areas of EU research policy. All specific programmes work together to promote and encourage the creation of European poles of (scientific) excellence.The non-nuclear research activities of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) are grouped under a specific programme with individual budget allocation.Photo: Image courtesy of ShutterstockMore information:www.exeter.ac.uk