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Project results

Executive summary

The objective of the INCOM project was to develop techno-economically viable solutions and production methods for lightweight structures based on advanced sustainable materials for use in packaging, vehicles, sporting goods and aeronautical applications.

The main modules of the INCOM project were:

  • nanocellulose fibre (NFC) production and modification process
  • composites processing and sandwich structure manufacturing
  • mechanical testing and verification in counterbalance with modelling and LCA.

Two approaches were used for manufacturing, modification and processing of nanocellulose fibre: The first approach was fibrillation of cellulose readily in a pre-polymer by basket bead milling. The second approach was fibrillation of bioresidue-based cellulose in aqueous media by grinding and development of a quality assessment tool for optimization of the process.

The NFC production using (TORUSMILL«) basket bead mill was developed for milling cellulose fibres in monomers (e.g. epoxy resin), sol-gel dispersion or solvents. In the Masuko grinding in water, the mechanical, morphological, rheological, and optical scattering behaviour was characterized to assess and optimize the degree of fibrillation. A relationship between viscosity and strength of the network (in dry state) was established. The relation from online viscosity measurements can be used for prediction of the energy necessary to reach the maximum network strength. Pilot implementation of both NFC production routes as well as upscaling evaluation was performed with industrial partners.

NFC reinforced resins were used to manufacture composite and lightweight sandwich structures. For sandwich structures, three types of cores were developed: expanded NFC reinforced bio-based PU foam core, bio-based thermoplastic foam core and thermoplastic honeycomb core. Industrially viable production methods thereof were developed. NFC reinforced bio-PU foams were found to perform in a level of commercial PU foams and addition of NFCs further improved the compressive strength and modulus of the foams. Regarding PLA foam composition and extrusion process were optimized and promising properties were achieved with small and even cell size. Novel industrially viable solutions for thermoplastic honeycomb core were studied and developed.

NFC-modified Inorganic-organic hybrid coatings were used to modify the surface properties of honeycomb and web structures. The combination of comparably high film thicknesses (20 Ám) with high NFC contents (>20 %w/w) as well as impregnation of cellulose-based webs were used. Increment of mechanical properties by coatings proved to be quite challenging but potential solutions were developed especially with thermally curable hybrid coatings.

Novel composite structures and techno-economically viable processing techniques with high commercialization potential were developed and up-scaled during the project. An ecodesign approach was used and evaluated by LCA studies right from the early stages. This ensured a path of reduced environmental impact for these new industrial processes for cellulose reinforced nanocomposites.

The work done opens a completely new exploitation possibility for strong environmentally friendly composites and replacement of traditional state-of-the-art solutions leading to lighter high performance composite structures.

Click to enlarge photos.

 
Masuko device.
Photo: Bergius
Airbus A380, upper deck.
Photo: Diehl
Lightweight pipe.
Photo: Diehl
     
Laboratory basket bead mill model CA with an adapted TML milling system.
Photo:VMA Getzmann 
   

Download final summary report here

InCom is a Collaborative small or medium –scale focused research project financed under FP7-FoF.NMP.2013-10 Manufacturing processes for products made of composites or engineered metallic materials of the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission