The implementation of new technologies that have been recently developed will probably significantly change our way of life in the way that electronics and information technology have done already. It is expected that the advances coming from Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, specifically in the development on new processes and materials at the nano-scale will draw a roadmap towards potential solutions to energy, transport, environment, health etc related problems which require urgent attention to enhance life conditions of present and future generations.
One of the six Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) identified in 2006 by the European Union is Nanotechnology. Together with others KETs, such as micro and nano-electronics and advanced manufacturing systems, they can constitute a multi-KET box with a potential impact in strengthening Europe’s industrial and innovation capacity and to address the societal challenges ahead as they were recognized as playing an increasingly vital role for the delivery of smart, sustainable and inclusive European growth. All applications of KETs directly or indirectly stimulate competitiveness and generate jobs, growth and wealth in the economy.
There has been a sharply growing demand for composites materials with integrated multifunctional capabilities mainly in the manufacturing of aeronautical or automotive structural components in recent years. Such demand has generated a concerted effort to investigate advanced materials and manufacturing systems. Within new materials, nanotechnology has gained much attention in the research community to develop materials with unique properties. One of the most studied and important carbon nanofillers are carbon nanotubes (CNT), which have been used to improve the mechanical, thermal and electrical properties of composites.
There are different ways to introduce CNTs in composite systems. The most standard one is the addition of CNTs to the polymer. Nevertheless, this approach has some drawbacks that obstruct the straightforward use of CNT-doped resins in conventional composite manufacturing systems. The doping of the resin with nanofillers affects to the physical properties related to processing of host material (such as viscosity). This is a very important observation especially for composite manufacturing methods which are sensitive to processing and resin parameters. Viscosity change due to nano-phase incorporation, filtration of the nano-phase by the fibre reinforcement and re-agglomeration of the CNT during curing are the biggest issues that should be solved in order to introduce successfully CNT-doped resins in composites.
The PLATFORM project aims to develop open access environmentally friendly pilot lines for the industrial production of three cost-effective, sustainable nano-enabled products: buckypapers, CNT treated prepreg and CNT doped nonwoven veils for applications in sectors such as Aeronautic and Automotive with the final objective of creating an European eco-system for testing, validation and further integration of nanocomposites. It aims at creating a narrow collaboration between RTO, composite producers and end-users having a common target: the introduction of nanocomposites into the market. The step further remains in the application of the nano-enabled products currently validated at lab-scale to full size demonstrators, in order to obtain industrial level robust and stable processes which fulfill the requirements and quality levels imposed by the industry. SMEs do not have the means to demonstrate and validate the potential products and further implement the production as part of their portfolio until the market is clear and well defined.