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Fibres/​Yarns/​Fabrics

Developing advanced fibres in space

Working under microgravity and vacuum conditions opens new possibilities for next-generation materials.

15th August 2022

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Valencia, Spain

Transport/​Aerospace

AIMPLAS, the technology centre based in Valencia, Spain, is involved in a number of new research projects including the BSGN Advanced Materials Accelerator, an initiative of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The aim is to take advantage of the conditions offered by the Earth’s orbit, which opens new opportunities for finding technical solutions that respond to the challenges of industry and engineering.

The first phase of the project, led by the Satellite Applications Catapult, will focus on enabling advanced manufacturing companies to explore the possibilities that space has to offer with a focus on five advanced materials technology areas – superalloys and hybrid materials, nanomaterials, advanced ceramics, novel polymers and fibres and functional coatings and thin film systems.

“At AIMPLAS, we’re very proud of participating in this groundbreaking programme, which will allow us to explore the conditions for manufacturing new polymers and fibres in space to obtain improved advanced materials compared to products developed on Earth,” said Carolina Losada, the principal investigator for the project at AIMPLAS. “Working under microgravity and vacuum conditions opens a world of possibilities for creating revolutionary next-generation materials. Identifying attractive projects for companies interested in exploring this pathway and supporting their developments in collaboration with industry is a major challenge and a great opportunity.”

Automotive projects

Aimplas is also active in the Lightcar and Veteria21 project for developing new long-fibre thermoplastic composites for the automotive industry.

Weight reduction in electric vehicles is one of the keys to making emission reductions a reality. Lighter vehicles require less energy to run so their range is increased compared to heavier vehicles with the same batteries. The industry is therefore aiming to replace metal parts with new composite materials that help reduce battery weight by 50%-70%.

© AIMPLAS

The composites will provide advantages such as lightness, impact resistance and rigidity, as well as good recyclability and processability using conventional, efficient manufacturing methods with low waste generation.

The aim is to optimise the transformation processes of thermoplastic composites so they can replace metals in electric vehicle battery casings. This will reduce battery weight and, therefore, battery consumption while providing a sustainable new solution based on circular economy criteria.

In the related Neorec Project, AIMPLAS is developing advanced chemical and mechanical recycling solutions to prevent end-of-life tyres and other materials being sent to landfills by using it to obtain industrial materials and substances.

The chemical recycling processes being studied include anaerobic degradation and the aim is to isolate and select microorganisms that anaerobically biodegrade biopolymers faster than conventional organisms, which will help establish a more efficient recycling process.

According to estimates by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association (ETRMA), up to four million tons of end-of-life tyres are generated each year in Europe and Spain alone accounts for 300,000 tons.

www.aimplas.net

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