Quickstep joins international nanotech research project

Quickstep will joint a $10 million effort to evaluate and optimize carbon nanotube use in out-of-autoclave resins for composites manufacturing.

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Quickstep Holdings Ltd. (North Cooggee, Australia) announced on March 28 that it is participating in a European research project to investigate the use of nanotechnology to improve the material properties of advanced composites used in global transportation industries. The project is being undertaken by Quickstep's German subsidiary, Quickstep GmbH.

The total budget for the research project is approximately $10 million (USD), with Quickstep GmbH receiving up to $445,000 (USD) from the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, which is the European Union's chief instrument for funding research over the period 2007 to 2013.

The nanotechnology — carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in this case — involves the introduction of nano-sized particles into the host composite material. It is believed that the introduction of CNTS into the host composite resins could lead to improved properties, including enhanced electrical conductivity and inter-laminar strength.

Potential advantages conveyed by CNTs include improved z-level bonding between layers of carbon fiber and improved electrical conductivity for aircraft skins and train structures.

The research project is evaluating the manufacture of composite materials infused with carbon nanotubes, with a sole focus on out-of-autoclave composite manufacturing technologies. Out-of-autoclave processing techniques — such as the Quickstep Process.

Managing director of Quickstep, Philippe Odouard, says the research project could help solve many of the limitations associated with the use of composites within the global transportation industry. "High-performance composites have emerged as a key solution to many of the main challenges in the global transportation sector, improving performance, reducing weight, increasing durability and — importantly — reducing environmental footprint," Odouard said."However. the dramatic shift towards the use of composites over the past decade has seen new technical challenges that need to be overcome. Nanotubes cured using the Quickstep Process address the area of electrical conductivity, and also provide additional toughness and improved inter laminar properties."

In addition to Quickstep, participants in the research include:

  • The European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company (EADS)
  • SLCA, a subsidiary of the SAFRAN Group
  • Alstom
  • The University of Cambridge, the University of London and the Catholic University of Leuven
  • Coexpair

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.