Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre
Innovations in composite materials and structures are essential for the zero carbon economy and for producing efficient, lightweight vehicles and components used for renewable energy generation at a low cost. This Cranfield University centre is at the vanguard of these changes.
With its advanced design and manufacturing capability, the Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre at Cranfield University is an established partner to manufacturers and members of their supply chains through short courses, consultancy and research.
The Centre investigates and develops advanced materials (including carbon nanotubes, graphene and other 2D materials) and processing technology for lightweight and efficient structures and combines an expertise in low cost manufacturing with modelling, simulation and structural health monitoring technologies.
Historically, the Centre was highly focused on the development of aerospace composites. It has produced a complete unmanned aircraft airframe using low-cost composite manufacturing; composite reinforcing techniques for aerospace landing gear; sensors for built-in detection of structural degradation; and a cost model for composite design and manufacturing. Its research into the development and processing of carbon fibre multi-axial fabrics is now part of the Airbus A380.
More recently, the centre has been working in new sectors, like the automotive industry, as it seeks to use more lightweight structures and energy with particular focus on the sustainable and affordable large-scale hydrogen production technology.
It is also working with the construction industry and engaging with partners looking into rapid housing development and the use of sustainable materials, which will not only reduce the cost of building, but also make housing more efficient.
The Centre is also working with what may be referred to as “extreme environment” industries, such as space and Formula 1, which are looking for new materials and pushing boundaries for performance and safety reasons.
From a materials perspective, industry is looking for materials that perform. The issue with this is the security of the supply of those materials. Companies need to make sure they are getting the same material over and over again. Sustainability is also a big focus and industry is now looking for materials that both perform and are sustainable. It is a constant challenge for industry to find new, sustainable materials.
The Centre is looking into completely new manufacturing technologies, for example, pushing boundaries in the area of new generation conductors by making carbon nano-tubes from sustainable source of natural gas and turning them into electric wires. The idea is to replace copper and aluminium conductors with significantly less resistive nanotube wires, furthermore offering up to 9x weight reduction and at least 10x higher mechanical strength.
As an example, a Boeing 747 carries about five tonnes of copper as a conductor on board – researchers at the Centre estimate that can be reduced to 0.5 tonnes, leaving the potential for 4.5 tonnes of something else to be carried. The Enhanced Composites Centre is also leading innovation in graphene manufacture and rolling out a long list of graphene-based applications with high technology readiness level and strategic industrial partners. We are offering support to our inductrial partners at every stage of their graphene journey, incluing support on small scale production as well as bespoke implementation into a variety of applications to make other materials more sustainable or open doors to applications which are not possible today.
The Centre is a core partner in the strategic EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Composites (CIMComp), supported by major manufacturers.
TO LEARN MORE, VISIT: https://www.cranfield. ac.uk/centres/enhanced-composites-andstructures- centre and contact k.koziol@cranfield. ac.uk.