Net Zero at the heart of NCC’s Core Research programme for 2022/23

The pressing need to develop sustainable ways of using advanced materials is at the heart of the projects selected for the National Composite Centre’s Core Research programme for 2022/23.

Working with NCC Member organisations across various sectors in a collaborative initiative, the NCC will empower industry to benefit from the unique properties that make composites such a vital technology in achieving Net Zero. The programme will also press towards making the materials themselves more sustainable, as well as developing testing methods that will make it possible to use hydrogen as an alternative, zero-emissions fuel source.

Other topics of study include using composites in structures that require fire resistance, enhancing manual manufacturing with digital immersivity, and using 3D printing for manufacture with recycled materials.

NCC Tier 1 Members drive the technical direction of the Core Research programme, and access research outputs over 15 times the value of their contribution through the collaborative nature of the programme. Tier 2 and Associate Members of the NCC can also access Core’s leading-edge research, with more information available here.

For more information on any of this year’s Core Research projects, please contact Matt Scott, Chief Engineer for Capability.

Core Research Programme 2022/23

Sustainability

  • Effective Recycling of End-Of-Life Composites
    • The NCC’s pedigree in the use of recycled composites will expand further to demonstrate even more manufactured applications. Recycled end-of-life composites have demonstrably lower environmental impact than virgin composites. Now the NCC will use its world-leading understanding of a range of recycling processes in commercially appropriate manufacture.
  • Design for Sustainability
    • The early decisions made when a product is being designed have major implications on its full-life impact on our planet. This project will expand on last year’s work to deliver Design for Net-Zero and Design for End-of-Life strategies, and a Design for Sustainability handbook.
  • Towards Zero Waste Infusions
    • Current infusion manufacturing processes create significant waste – in the wind energy sector this could be around 30% of wind turbine blade mass. This project will assess actionable methods for avoiding waste creation, and identify supply chains for repurposing unavoidable consumables and waste – all to demonstrate leadership in sustainable practices and lean manufacture.
  • Recycling Composite Manufacturing Waste
    • There are few reliable opportunities to re-use manufacturing waste at present, but last year’s Core research showed a few promising technical routes to achieve this. This year the project will demonstrate at least one of these routes, working alongside the supply chain.

Hydrogen

  • Cryogenic Composite Tanks
    • To open up the Hydrogen Economy in transport, storage tanks must be light and safe, something composites can offer. This project is at the forefront of developing the testing methodologies needed to understand which materials perform best at the very low temperatures required.
  • Hydrogen Permeability: Assessing Composite Criticality
    • Storing and transporting hydrogen is a challenge because its very small molecules are prone to leaking out of tanks and pipes. By enhancing our knowledge of how high-pressure storage needs to be designed and manufactured to ensure it doesn’t leak, we can provide the composites solution.

Harsh Environments

  • Fire-Resistant Structural Composites
    • Established design principles advise engineers to protect composites from fire with other materials. This project turns this idea on its head by asking “what performance can composites achieve even in the event of a fire?”
  • Automated Fibre Placement of Ceramic Matrix Composites
    • Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) have significant performance advantages over conventional composites in very high temperature applications, but their use is hindered by high material costs and labour-intensive manufacturing processes. The Core project last year showed that automated layup technologies can use alternative raw materials to produce the same parts – at a greatly reduced cost. This project will continue the research to produce more complex shapes and performance data.
  • High Temperature, Low Dielectric Composites
    • Previous NCC research has shown that polyimide composites exhibit excellent thermal performance up to 360°C, as well as a low dielectric constant. Could this material be used to solve some of the challenges associated with radar systems?

Explorative

  • Enhanced Manufacture using Immersive Digital Technologies
    • Manual composite layup can see vast amounts of process variation, depending on operator skills and preferences. In addition, verifying layup quality can be very subjective. This project will present new digital tools that offer a solution to make manual layup faster, more precise, and better validated.
  • Continuous Fibre Composite Additive Manufacturing
    • While commercially available digital technologies can produce continuous fibre components, there is limited available independent information for industry to decide how or whether to use them. This project will show which systems are best suited to which applications and act as a trusted partner in exploring the composites AM landscape.
  • Automated Deposition of Recycled Prepreg Tapes
    • The Lineat process, developed in Bristol alongside NCC, can now produce aligned prepreg tapes with recycled carbon fibre. This project will explore how these tapes, combined with iCOMAT’s Rapid Tow Shearing process, can solve technical problems in a sustainable way.

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