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Composites Industry News

News for September 2006


20% Reduction in Cycle Time Offer by New Aluminium Moulding Tools

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Project Alamo, a 2-year European Union funded research programme coordinated by Rapra Technology, is drawing to a close with some potentially useful results. The project was initiated to investigate innovative uses of anodised aluminium in the field of thermoplastic moulding, concentrating on injection and rotational moulding, with the ultimate aim of competing directly with steel tooling. Aluminium has several known advantages for tooling applications – easy machining, good thermal properties, light weight and excellent recyclability but it has suffered from a lack of wear and chemical resistance. The anodised coating perfected by the team from across Europe has given the wear and chemical resistance without compromising the inherent beneficial properties of aluminium. The programme members combined expertise in various fields – anodising, materials testing, mould manufacture, moulding and 3D moulding simulation, using both injection moulding and rotational moulding techniques to produce test tools which compared traditional P20 steel, aluminium, and anodised aluminium mould tools (for rotational moulding and injection moulding). The results were promising. The rotational moulding tool exhibited a 20% reduction in cycle time compared to a conventional aluminium tool due to the rapid heating and cooling made possible by the high emissivity of anodising combined with the excellent thermal conductivity of aluminium. There was a corresponding reduction in energy usage and the resultant mouldings were thoroughly tested and showed no difference in material properties. The injection mould was a four impression tool which compared wear rates over 10,000 mouldings of an abrasive glass filled nylon compound. The anodised aluminium insert performed close to the standard of the steel one whereas the non-anodised aluminium insert showed marked wear in the gate area, visible to the naked eye. The final phase of the Alamo project has been to make some industrial demonstrators in order to expand on the positive results of the tests phase. These results are expected around November 2006 when the project reaches the end of its current funding. However the resulting technology will continue under the guidance of the SME partners in the project.

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Nanowire-Paper Offers Strength, Flexibility

3rd September 2006 0 comments

University of Arkansas researchers have created fibrous nanomaterial for fabricating robust, paper-like materials and devices. This two-dimensional “”paper”” can be shaped into three-dimensional devices. It can be folded, bent and cut, or used as a filter, yet it is chemically inert, remains robust and can be heated up to 700 degrees Celsius. “”Humans have used paper made from natural fibres for thousands of years,”” said Z. Ryan Tian, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “”With this technology, we are entering a new era.”” The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B. Tian and his team used a hydrothermal heating process to create long nanowires out of titanium dioxide and from there created free-standing membranes. The resulting material is white in colour and resembles regular paper. Further, the material can be cast into different three-dimensional shapes, with different functions. The researchers have created tubes, bowls and cups using this process. These three-dimensional hollow objects can be manipulated by hand and trimmed with scissors, the researchers report. The university has applied for patent protection on the process used to create the free-standing membranes for filtration and catalysis, and is looking for industrial partners to license and commercialize various applications of the nanopaper technology.

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Reversed Growth Reveals Secrets of Carbon Nanotubes

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Researchers at the Advanced Technology Institute, University of Surrey have reversed the growth of carbon nanotubes from catalysts, using electron beam irradiation in an electron microscope. High resolution imaging of this reverse process led to the conclusion that carbon nanotube growth is essentially a surface-driven process. Carbon nanotubes – tubes formed from a repeating arrangement of carbon atoms with diameter of the order of a billionth of a metre – have remarkable mechanical, electronic and optical properties. Their potential applications range from ultra-strong ropes to ultra-small transistors, as well as field-emission displays, biosensors and optical switches. Unfortunately it is not yet possible to produce carbon nanotubes on a large scale with controlled properties (such as diameter and chirality – the degree of spiral in the arrangement of the carbon atoms). One important method for producing tubes is to use small particles of a metal such as nickel, which at high temperatures catalyse the decomposition of a carbon-containing gas forming carbon nanotubes which ‘grow’ on each metal particle. This process has not yet been fully understood, but recent work at the University of Surrey sheds new light on the interaction between the catalysts and the carbon atoms involved in the growth. “”There is still a hot debate about whether carbon nanotubes grow from catalysts as a result of carbon diffusing through or on the surface of the catalyst””, said Dr Vlad Stolojan, who led the research team. “”This is mainly because the result of the growth process can only be observed at room temperature, after the process is completed. Through analysing the physics behind the controlled growth reversal that we observed, we concluded that the steady-state part of the growth process is surface-driven and demonstrated that the carbon nearest to the catalyst’s surface is highly mobile””. Stolojan and his co-workers studied the reversal process with high spatial resolution, in a transmission electron microscope, and have shown that the catalyst remains attached to the nanotube throughout the irradiation sequence, whilst an equivalent of 1 carbon atom is consumed per every nickel atom in the catalyst. By considering the effects of heating and irradiation, they have discovered that the carbon atoms at the catalyst surface are very easily removed (also confirmed by theoretical simulations), followed by a rapid rearrangement of the nanotube’s atoms around the catalyst. They have also discovered that changes in the nanotube’s growth direction are linked to a sudden rotation of the catalyst. The observed controlled growth reversal under the high-energy electron irradiation will allow for controlling the height of individual nanotubes within patterned arrays, thus offering three-dimensional control of nanotube arrays for field-emission applications. “”The ability to observe the behaviour of the catalyst during the growth-reversal of the nanotube is exciting, as it allows the reverse-engineering of the steady-state growth process. Ultimately, this can help establish the relationship between the catalyst’s crystalline structure and the chirality of the resulting nanotube; the control of the chirality being the true ‘holy grail’ of carbon nanotube growers.”” said Prof Ravi Silva, the Director of the Advanced Technology Institute, University of Surrey from the UK.

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Nanoledge Raise 1M Euros for a New Generation of High Performance Composites

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Nanoledge has raised 1,000,000 euros from financial investors who have been supporting it ever since it was formed.

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Desktop Printing of Carbon Nanotube Patterns

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer, a team of scientists has developed a simple technique for printing patterns of carbon nanotubes on paper and plastic surfaces. The method, which is described in the August 2006 issue of the journal Small, could lead to a new process for manufacturing a wide range of nanotube-based devices, from flexible electronics and conducting fabrics to sensors for detecting chemical agents. The method was illustrated with an electrically conductive image of Albert Einstein printed on copier paper with carbon nanotube ink. Carbon nanotubes have enticed researchers since their discovery in 1991, offering an impressive combination of high strength, low weight, and excellent conductivity. But most current techniques to make nanotube-based devices require complex and expensive equipment. “Our results suggest new alternatives for fabricating nanotube patterns by simply printing the dissolved particles on paper or plastic surfaces,” said Robert Vajtai, a researcher with the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and corresponding author of the paper. Vajtai and his colleagues at Rensselaer — along with a group of researchers led by Krisztián Kordás and Géza Tóth at the University of Oulu in Finland — have developed an approach that uses a commercial inkjet printer to deposit nanotubes onto various surfaces. They simply fill a conventional ink cartridge with a solution of carbon nanotubes dissolved in water, and then the printer produces a pattern just as if it was printing with normal ink. Because nanotubes are good conductors, the resulting images also are able to conduct electricity. “Printed carbon nanotube structures could be useful in many ways,” Vajtai said. “Some potential applications based on their electrical conductivity include flexible electronics for displays, antennas, and batteries that can be integrated into paper or cloth.” Printing electronics on cloth could allow people to actually “wear” the battery for their laptop computer or the entire electronic system for their cell phone, according to Vajtai. The approach is simple, versatile, and inexpensive, which makes it superior to other methods for producing conductive surfaces, according to Vajtai. “A great advantage of our process is that the printed patterns do not require curing, which is known to be a limiting factor for conventional conductive ink applications,” he said. “And since our ink is a simple water-based dispersion of nanotubes, it is environmentally friendly and easy to handle and store.” The researchers plan to continue optimizing the process to improve the quality of the nanotube ink and the conductivity of the printed images. At present, the paper or plastic must be run through the printer multiple times to get an electrically conductive pattern, with the conductivity increasing after each repetition. They also hope to experiment with different chemical modifications to produce a diversity of ink “colours,” each producing surface patterns with different properties, Vajtai said. Several other Rensselaer researchers collaborated with Vajtai on the project: Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Swastik Kar, a postdoctoral research associate in materials science and engineering; Saikat Talapatra, a postdoctoral research associate with the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center; and Caterina Soldano, a doctoral student in physics, applied physics, and astronomy. From the University of Oulu, Tero Mustonen, Heli Jantunen, and Marja Lajunen also contributed to the research.

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ZCL Receives UL & ULC Listing for Tank Lining System

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Underwriters Laboratories in the United States (UL) have listed ZCL Composites’ Phoenix Lining System and Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) have listed their Lifeliner System in accordance with recognized industry standards. These internal fibreglass systems allow “in-situ” upgrades of a single wall tank to a secondary contained lining system using a patented three dimensional glass fabric combined with a proprietary state-of-the-art curing system. There is a very large and growing need for upgrading both underground and aboveground liquid storage, driven by environmental legislation and industry standards requiring secondary containment for storage of hazardous ZCL say that further opportunities exist in the corrosion free storage of new fuels including the new ethanol blended fuels and other blends now being legislated in certain parts of Canada and the USA. “The potential for generating considerable revenues from this technology is very exciting,” said Ven Côté, President of ZCL Composites Inc. “The UL and ULC approval is a critical step that opens the door to establish the Lifeliner System and the Phoenix Lining System as the preferred method of secondary containment of existing single walled tanks across Canada and the US. This new generation of environmental protection will change our industry, and with this approval, we are very anxious to commence commercial activity in this area.”

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Rogers Corporation Partner with Thermal Transfer Composites

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Rogers Corporation and Thermal Transfer Composites (TTC) have entered into a strategic partnership focusing developments of metal matrix composite (MMC) products for electronic thermal management applications.

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New Distributor for PlastiComp’s Complet Long Fibre Compounds

3rd September 2006 0 comments

PlastiComp have appointed M. Holland Co., and M. Holland Canada, as a distributor of Complet long fibre reinforced thermoplastic pellets.

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First Composites Europe Trade Show Completely Booked

3rd September 2006 0 comments

Approximately 200 exhibitors will be on site when Composites Europe opens its gates on September 20th in Essen. The first opening of the new European Trade Fair for Composite Materials, Technologies and Applications met with great interest from the industry internationally: more than 60 percent of the exhibitor companies come from European countries outside Germany or from overseas. The biggest foreign quotas are from the Netherlands, Great Britain and France as well as the USA and China. The exhibition surface extends over more than 6,000 sqm, which means that Composites Europe is completely booked out. “”With Composites Europe we have succeeded in creating a genuine European business-to-business platform which offers an opportunity to small and medium-sized companies in particular to conquer new markets “”, says Trade Fair Director Britta Wirtz. With the participation of industry leaders such as, for instance, the Finnish Exel Group, Huntsman, Quadrant, Lorenz Kunststofftechnik, Airtech, PPG and the Röchling Group, the fair is already off to a very successful start. Fibre composites are the focus of this trade fair which will last three days. Composites Europe presents the entire development and manufacturing chain from the raw material to the finished end product as well as process technology and practical applications. The trade fair is supplemented by a large number of special forums, such as workshops and live demonstrations. 3,500 visitors are expected at Composites Europe. The trade fair with accompanying forum will be held parallel to Aluminium 2006 from September 20th to 22nd in Essen. Composites Europe is being organised by Reed Exhibitions Deutschland GmbH in cooperation with the European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA) which represents the European interests of 13 national associations. Another event accompanying Composites Europe is the 9th International AVK Congress. AVK, the German industrial Federation of Reinforced Plastics, will hold its 2006 annual congress in conjunction with the fair.

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South Carolina Announces Composites Cluster

3rd September 2006 0 comments

The South Carolina Council on Competitiveness has added an advanced composites cluster to its current roster of statewide industry clusters. Former South Carolina Entrepreneur of the Year Bill Masters will co-chair the cluster, along with Ed Maier of the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP). SC’s Council on Competitiveness defines a cluster as a group of interconnected companies in a similar line of business that collaborate to build and expand their products and services. For the last two years, SCMEP has been working with manufacturers in the composites arena, helping companies craft and implement strategic plans, increase process efficiency and develop new technology. The organization also has been working with textile, chemical, and plastics manufacturers who have the ability to transform into composites producers. “”SCMEP has laid a solid foundation for building this cluster with research that has uncovered over 150 composites-related manufacturers in South Carolina,”” said Council Executive Director George Fletcher. “”The next steps will be to get the CEOs of these companies talking, and build a network with suppliers, universities, federal labs and other tech resources. We are confident Bill Masters and Ed Maier will lead this cluster successfully.”” Bill Masters, president of Evolution Kayaks, said, “”Composites have been a part of my life since I made my first kayak in 1971, and then the first Kevlar kayak a few years later. I clearly saw a process that could revolutionize parts that needed high strength relative to weight. I look forward to helping bring the many South Carolina composites practitioners together to be more competitive.”” “”Advanced composites represent the fastest growing segment of manufacturing, with global growth rates reaching as much as 105 percent in recent years,”” said Ed Maier, program manager with SCMEP. “”They are an outstanding avenue for manufacturing expansion in South Carolina, due to the state’s textile base and variety of composites companies already manufacturing products here.””

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