Improving short fiber thermosets

Researchers at the University of Delaware in the US have received US$13.5 mn funding from the US Air Force to improve short fiber thermoset manufacturing for aerospace applications.

They will reportedly use the university’s TuFF strong, short fiber composite material that can be made from a range of fiber and resin combinations. It can be stamped into complex shapes and features stretchability up to 40%, the scientists say.

Plans are to develop lighter weight composites that are cost-competitive with aluminum when used to make small aircraft parts.

Until now, most of the research has focused on thermoplastic composite materials. TuFF thermosets have a higher temperature threshold, making them more suitable for aerospace applications. However, long manufacturing times are required to make a part. 

UD mechanical engineers Professor Suresh Advani and Professor Erik Thostenson aim to improve the material by characterizing its mechanical properties and testing it with thin resin films and liquid resins.

The research team also plans to develop a virtual modeling system to refine the material-forming process.

“I am hoping this work will allow us finally to make composites cost competitive with the metal industry,” said Advani.