The main objective of the INCOM project was to develop techno-economically viable solutions and production methods for manufacturing of lightweight structures based on advanced sustainable materials for use in vehicles, aeronautical applications and sporting goods. Special attention was dedicated to upscaling of production processes, pilot scale trials and industrial implementation.
In other words, lightweight, sustainable and durable composite sandwich structures were developed and manufactured for different applications. These structures are reinforced with nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC), a nano-scale material derived from cellulose found in biomass and bio-waste.
The main modules of the INCOM project are
In the INCOM project, two approaches were used for the manufacturing and modification of NFC. The first approach was the nanofibrillation of cellulose in a pre-polymer (monomer or oligomer) medium. This avoids problems related to incompatibility of aqueous medium and pre-polymers and creates an optimal, homogenous fibril dispersion in the resin to be used in composite structures. Resins and sol-gel coatings reinforced with NFC or functionalised NFC were used in cores and skins of structural sandwich composites, to enhance mechanical properties. The project also aimed at adding value to bio-waste materials to be used for NFC production, focusing on the optimisation of energy consumption of the NFC grinding process. Therefore, the second approach was the development of nanofibrillation mainly in aqueous media and the optimisation of the nanofibrillation of bioresidues (e.g. carrot bioresidues).
- Nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) production and modification
- Composites processing and sandwich structure manufacturing
- Mechanical testing, verification and modelling
- Life cycle assessment
Sandwich composite materials can replace monolithic structures in many applications, thus saving by reduction of input materials and overall weight of the structure. Moreover, the reduced use of materials in sandwich composites, compared to monolithic structures, can reduce their environmental impact. Three types of cores were developed for composite sandwich structures to meet different technical requirements: expanded NFC reinforced bio-based PU foam, bio-based PLA thermoplastic foam and thermoplastic honeycomb cores.
Demonstrators, such as automotive components, airplane cabin parts and sporting goods were produced during the project.
The quality and properties of the nanoreinforced materials were constantly tested, and numerical models were used to simulate mechanical behaviour and facilitate industrial upscaling. During the development process, LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and LCC (Life Cycle Costing) were used to provide ecodesign feedback to project partners. Health and safety aspects were also taken into account, through a constant monitoring of existing national/international standards and health and safety related studies on nanocomposites.