Multi-Functional Composites

Photo of L. Drzal in labTiny changes make a HUGE difference

The next generation of composite structures have to be stiffer, stronger, tougher, lighter, more durable, and smart: multi-functional. While the mechanical properties are generally defined by the choice of fiber, matrix, and fiber architecture, a new window has opened to radically improve, not only the composite mechanical properties but their electrical and thermal properties as well, by the addition of a small amount of nanoparticles strategically placed on and between the reinforcing fibers in composite materials.

Close-up photo of inter-collated graphite

Close-up photo of lightly pulvarized graphite sample

Small additions of selected nano-particles introduced into the matrix and interface in composite materials can radically improve the mechanical, electrical, thermal, barrier, flammability, and impact behavior of structures. The development and deployment of this revolutionary material and process technology is being actively explored for vehicle applications with a focus on creating multi-functional structures with increased efficiency and effectiveness.