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Composite materials are key materials for the future, and are already replacing metals and many other material systems. In transportation systems, their low density reduces the weight of vehicles, helping to reduce CO2emissions. They are also essential in the wind turbine industry, where they allow the use of larger turbine blades with higher efficiency. Using composites makes for a smaller carbon footprint and provides the world with sustainable solutions. One direction composite research is taking is towards the use of bio-based materials and reinforcement with nanoparticles from natural resources.
By Asst. Prof. Dr. M. Özgür Seydibeyoğlu, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Izmir Katip Celebi University.
Current technological trends for composite materials are to reduce waste, recycle resins, increase the use of thermoplastic systems, and increase the use of robotic and automatic systems. The push for greener, more sustainable materials is growing stronger every day, contributing to make polymers and composites and the technology used more environment friendly.
The research group in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Izmir Katip Celebi University (Turkey) is working on different aspects of composites, with several goals in mind. Divided into several teams, it is seeking cost-effective, high-performance biobased materials for use in composites and attempting to enhance the properties of biocomposites with nanoparticles from natural resources. This article summarizes the group’s publications and current industry-based research findings.
One of the teams works on developing new, cutting-edge biobased polyurethanes reinforced with nanoparticles. Biobased polyurethane foams are used in sandwich composite panels, offering new solutions and replacing petroleum-based polymer foams. Lignin will be the main polyol used in these foams. Their structure will be reinforced with cellulose nanocrystals, but nanoclays will also be used to provide mechanical strength and flame retardancy.
New carbon fibre precursors
Another aspect of the group’s research focuses on new lignin-based carbon fibre precursors. Its new research findings show that polyacrylonitrile (PAN) polymer can be replaced partially with lignin, forming a blend of PAN and lignin. This improves the mechanical properties of PAN, reduces its cost, and increases the biocontent of the carbon materials.
Fig. 1: Lignin particles (left: electron microscopy image, right: optical microscopy image)
Natural fibres and thermoplastic resins
The group also works on natural fibres and thermoplastic resins. A study is about to start, with many new weaving inventions paving the way for a variety of new fibre architectures.
Nanotechnology and nanoparticles
Besides natural fibres, nanotechnology and nanoparticles play an important role in the composite industry. The group is currently working on nanoclays, nanocellulose, carbon nanomaterials and polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS).
Nanocellulose obtained from natural resources is of key importance for the environment as it is a renewable material with a modulus of 150 GPa, close to that of carbon fibre. The reinforcing power of nanocellulose has been well documented in the literature. The group’s current research focuses on the reinforcement of biobased polymers. Nanocellulose is also very important for the production of biomedical materials.
Fig. 2: Nanocellulose material
Nanoclays can reinforce polymers at low percentages and without reducing the elongation values of polymers. Nanoclays also provide properties like flame retardancy, good anti-bacterial and gas barrier performance, and UV absorption.
Among carbon nanomaterials, graphene is the most promising, with easy manufacturing possibilities and lower cost potential. The group’s initial studies with graphene show that it can increase the strength of carbon fibre reinforced epoxy composites, demonstrating the importance of carbon nanotechnologies. In another study, graphene was used as the reinforcing material for synthetic fibres, showing potential as a new reinforcing fibre.
The last group of studies focuses on the flame retardancy of polymers. Dr. Seydibeyoğlu has patented a new nanomaterial, called “nano zinc borate”, which provides flame retardancy at the nanoscale. The flame retardancy study is not limited to zinc borate, as the group also focuses of new low-cost mineral solutions for the production of nanomaterials for flame retardancy. The flame retardant properties of carbon nanomaterials and POSS are also under investigation.
The group is open to projects for industrial uses of composites and to scientific discussions and new collaborative projects within the FP7 framework and other international frameworks.
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