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Advanced composites manufacturing: research opportunities

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

The marvel of FRP composites

Advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites, which combine strong fibers with tough plastics, are lighter and stronger than steel. While advanced composites are currently used for select purposes, such as aircraft, military vehicles, satellites, and luxury cars, it comes at a high cost. At a lower cost, these materials could help manufacturers deliver more advanced and more affordable products such as:

  • Lightweight vehicles with record-breaking fuel economy

  • Lighter and longer wind turbine blades

  • High-pressure tanks for natural gas-fueled cars

Lightweighting is directly tied to energy efficiency. With just a 10 percent weight reduction, fuel efficiency rises by 6-8 percent for internal combustion engine vehicles. For battery-electric vehicles, that 10 percent weight reduction increases vehicular range by 10 percent.

In automotive applications, advanced composites could reduce the weight of a passenger car by 50 percent and improve its fuel efficiency by about 35 percent without compromising performance or safety – helping to save families thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the car’s lifetime.

In the wind energy industry, advances in low-cost composite materials will help manufacturers build longer, lighter, and stronger blades to create more energy. In fact, doubling the length of a turbine blade can quadruple the amount of electricity generated.

Key supply chain aspects: Manufacturing FRP composites

FRP composite manufacturing can be an energy-intensive process with high heat

and pressure needed to bond the composite material together. In addition, carbon

fiber precursors and the raw materials that make up the polymer resin are typically made via conventional energy-intensive petrochemical processes.

Fiber Fabrication

High temperatures are required