Composites are the building blocks of engineering materials for the future. By combining materials with radically different functional properties, we can make hybrid composites of them with superior performance, enabling us to build super lightweight aircraft that consume radically less fuel. Nanofibers of synthetic polymers have been shown to improve the robustness of such advanced materials by increasing their toughness without adding a weight penalty. However, polymer fibers are not particularly heat resistant and tend to deform at temperatures above their “glass transition”, or softening, temperature, imposing severe restrictions on the manufacturability of nanofiber-toughened composites. The ThinkComposites research team of Dr. Melih Papila have developed a unique, game-changing approach for stiffening and stabilizing—called “curing”—these nanofibers, by adding molecules that harden into a scaffold inside the fibers, but only when activated by heat. During fiber formation, these molecules are present, but inactive. However, once activated, they enable the nanofibers composite to retain their structural integrity during subsequent processing at more elevated temperatures. This exciting new development is readily adaptable for conventional polymer composite manufacturing and redefines the engineering of lighter and stronger materials.
This notable achievement is being published as the cover story of the November 15th, 2016 issue of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science, as the fruits of hardwork by MAT Ph.D. student Kaan Bilge, Ayca Urkmez (MAT-M.Sc. ’15), and Dr. Eren Simsek (MAT-B.Sc. ’07,-Ph.D. ’12). The team acknowledge financial support from TUBITAK funded project 213M542.
More details can be found in their publication:
Kaan Bilge, Ayça Ürkmez, Eren Şimşek, Melih Papila (2016) “Stabilized electrospinning of heat stimuli/in situ crosslinkable nanofibers and their self-same nanocomposites,” J. Appl. Polymer Sci., doi:10.1002/app44090