CU Aerospace (CUA, Champaign, IL, US), a diversified R&D aerospace company, reported on Jan. 7 that it is commercializing an enabling technology for creating microvascular networks in composites using VascTech (Vaporization of sacrificial components Technology).
VascTech is characterized as a unique process, developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), to imbue composites with three-dimensional vasculature. Fabrication begins by incorporating sacrificial fibers into preforms followed by infiltration with epoxy resin and curing at elevated temperature. After curing, the sample is trimmed to expose the ends of the sacrificial fiber. The fiber is then removed by heating the sample to about 200°C under vacuum to vaporize the fiber, yielding empty channels and a 3D vascular network throughout the composite. By circulating fluids with unique physical properties, there is the capability to create a new generation of biphasic composite materials in which the solid phase provides strength and form while the fluid phase provides interchangeable functionality.
CUA is selling developmental quantities of VascTech high-strength fibers, extruded sheets, and filament for 3D printers. CUA is currently examining several applications for microvascular composites such as thermal management, self-healing, re-configurable antenna, etc. For example, read about recent work on self-healing microvascular composites by UIUC researchers.