Posted: Oct 12, 2010

From aerospace, food packaging to armour: New age nanocomposite materials developed for a variety of industries

(Nanowerk News) A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) showcases R&D in polymer and nanocomposites that are used to produce new transparent high-barrier film packaging, low dental shrinkage materials, anti-scratch coatings, aerospace carbon-fibre reinforced polymers and soft, high-impact resistant protective padding.
Made from two or more physically and chemically distinct materials, engineered composites are versatile materials that have been used to produce anything from lightweight, high-strength plastics for aircraft to barrier films for food packaging.
A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) is showcasing its composites R&D at the JEC Composites Show Asia 2010 at Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore from 12-14 October 2010.
"Composites are easier to process, cheaper to produce and often have functional properties that are better than certain raw materials", said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director of A*STAR's IMRE. "The combination of different materials often brings out the best in each of them to produce an enhanced, much improved composite".
One such example of the composite technology is IMRE's carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) that incorporates nano-sized fillers. "IMRE's cost effective CFRPs are lighter than steel or aluminium but are much stronger. They help make transportation more energy efficient and hence may possibly be more cost effective", said Dr He Chaobin, the IMRE Principal Scientist leading the project; he adds that parts for new passenger aircraft are increasingly being made out of such composite materials to shave off weight, and ultimately reduce fuel consumption. For example, half the new Boeing Dreamliner is made up of composites.
The five IMRE composite technologies on display at the exhibition are:
New transparent polymer films - Keeping food fresher for longer
Ecological friendly and cost-effective, a new flexible, transparent clay-based polymer nanocomposite barrier film has been developed by IMRE to keep food fresh, providing a viable alternative to conventional metalised plastic food packaging films.
Soft, lightweight, flexible composite materials that harden on impact for use as protective armour
Based on shear thickening fluid phenomena, IMRE has invented a new flexible, lightweight, impact-resistant composite material that helps reduce blunt force trauma while not impairing mobility – a revolutionary material that can be used in sports or law enforcement protective gear.
Strong, light and low-cost carbon-fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP) - A fraction of the weight, many times the load
By incorporating high performance nanocomposites, IMRE has developed CFRPs with significantly enhanced thermal and mechanical properties, producing composite materials that are tougher than neat epoxy and commercial silica/epoxy CFRPs used widely in vehicles and construction.
Anti-scratch coating to protect optical, camera and spectacle lenses
IMRE has created a hard coat on polymer substrate using a new versatile nanomaterial – Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes (POSS) – that is suitable for protecting lenses because of its excellent abrasion resistance, wear and scratch resistance, and optical clarity.
High performance, low shrinkage dental nanocomposites for prevention of tooth decay
IMRE has synthesised new POSS-based nanocomposites that reduce polymerisation shrinkage of dental composites by half, with current commercial composites used in fillings and dental restoration shrinking by 2-14% during the polymerisation process. With enhanced mechanical strength and hardness, the new nanocomposite helps to prevent stress-induced marginal openings at the composite / tooth interface, which can lead to leakage and ultimately teeth caries.
Source: A*STAR