A $3 million Ohio Third Frontier award to the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI, Dayton, Ohio) will fund the scale-up and production of a new carbon nanomaterial that will allow composites to “multitask,” says the group. For example, a wind turbine could de-ice its own blades in winter and store energy to release on a calm day, powering a grid even when its blades are still, or a military vehicle’s armor could double as a battery to power some of the vehicle’s electrical components.
Nicknamed “fuzzy fiber” by its inventor and UDRI group leader for carbon materials Khalid Lafdi, trademarked Nano Adaptive Hybrid Fabric (NAHF-X) is the first tailored nanomaterial that can be produced continuously in sizes and quantities great enough to make them affordable and viable for large-scale commercial use. Lafdi and his team produce 500 ft/152m of 12-inch/304-mm wide fabric per day at a pilot plant. When incorporated into resins, fuzzy fibers reportedly enable composites to be tailored for electrical and thermal conductivity.
The Third Frontier award, announced May 26 in Columbus, Ohio, will be matched by UDRI and Ohio-based collaborators Goodrich (Brecksville, Ohio), Owens Corning (Toledo, Ohio) and Renegade Materials (Springboro, Ohio). Project funding will include the purchase of equipment for a full-scale production facility in Dayton. Goodrich will apply the technology first in aerospace.
NAHF-X was pioneered with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the aerospace industry and the Third Frontier, says Brian Rice, URDI’s division head for multiscale composites and polymers. After successfully controlling growth of carbon nanotubes on individual carbon fibers, researchers accomplished the same on a type of carbon-fiber yarn and eventually on engineered textiles (photo, above right, shows growth of nanotubes on a fiberglass fabric). The breakthrough was in overcoming issues of uniformity and precisely controlling growth of the nanotubes, Rice says.