Composite research plans

The National Composites Centre (NCC) in the UK has released details of its research programs over the next two years.

According to the organization, it will focus particularly on sustainability and the hydrogen economy, finding ways to help the UK achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by enabling the use of hydrogen as a zero emissions fuel, and recycling and re-using composite materials.

Other topics of study include the design of composite structures for extreme environments, high-volume manufacturing of complex thermoplastic composite parts, and the performance of materials at very high temperatures.

The complete list of topics is as follows:

Composite cryogenic 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.

Composite pressure vessel hydrogen permeability: Due to its tiny molecules, storing and transporting hydrogen gas is a challenge. 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. 

Recycling end-of-life composites: After successfully demonstrating recycling in last year’s program, the recycling of composite materials was shown to be an intricate process. This follow-on project will investigate the inter-dependencies of serial recycling processes and the project will provide solutions across the whole value chain, from taking end-of-life composite materials to creating a new application with them.

Recycling of composite manufacturing waste: There are few reliable opportunities to re-use manufacturing waste at present, but the methods developed in this project aim to unlock a potential source of high-value feedstock for enterprising businesses – and avoid unnecessary landfill.

Composite 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 highlight the need and create a framework for future designers to consider the sustainability of their product in all stages of the design and manufacturing process.

Recycled composites supply chain: As well as technologies, industry also needs a viable supply chain to decommission, sort and recycle large composite structures. The cross-sector supply chain map produced in this project will show the full route for second-life composites in tomorrow’s world.

Composite interface and durability: There is a lack of understanding and industry confidence in composite to metallic joining in subsea conditions. This project will develop the best practices and tools for successful joint design and qualification to increase adoption in subsea structures and applications.

Overmolding of butt jointed aerostructures: The overmolding process represents a step-change in the production of high-rate, high-quality and high-performance composite structures. The first two years of this program have achieved complex tooling and automation solutions, and a fully-automated process for enabling the technology to be used. This year will bring these developments together to complete a series of manufacturing and performance investigations to provide confidence for the uptake of the technology.

Automated fiber placement of ceramic matrix composite materials: ceramic matrix composite materials 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. This project will use the NCC’s state-of-the-art technology in automated deposition to develop a low-cost solution for utilising these materials.

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?’

Modular infusion: This novel concept allows different sections of a single part to be manufactured independently from each other. This reduces process risks and allows different materials to be used in large and complex components, dramatically expanding the possibilities of items manufactured by liquid moulding processes.

For more information, contact Jack Alcock, core research programme manager at or Matt Scott, core research chief engineer at

This story uses material from the NCC, with editorial changes made by Materials Today.