New appointment with our usual column “The future of composites”. We interviewed Luigi Torre, full professor of Material Science and of Technology of Polymer and Composites and former President of SAMPE Europe (Society of Advancement Material and Process Engineering) from 2008 to 2009 and President of SAMPE Global in 2016.
by NICOLA CATENARO
Professor, what future can you imagine for composite materials?
«I see a future in several fields, not just one. True, composites are not a very recent material, however their applications are recent. Until twenty years ago, even just seeing a carbon fiber bicycle was a super-technological, modern and rare thing. Today, any bike shop has a significant number of composite models. In the market niches, sports and recreation, there will certainly be a further diffusion of lower cost composite materials. And this will happen because we will be able to take advantage of the advances in processing technologies and the availability of materials, without prejudice to the benefits offered by lightness».
And in the automotive sector?
«In the automotive sector, in particular, I see possibilities where there is a need to compensate for the weight of vehicle batteries, especially city cars that need to stop and start often in city traffic where more energy is consumed. Even in wind power, which has not reached the plateau in possible applications, increasing the stiffness and size of the blades and consequently their efficiency will offer composite materials and carbon fiber further opportunities. In the aeronautics sector, however, we have almost reached the plateau, much in terms of applications cannot be imagined and in any case it is difficult to imagine that we go beyond 50% of the material that is already used unless the size of the aircraft increases. Finally, in the space economy sector, with all the projects underway and the launches of micro and nano satellites in progress and planned, there will certainly be a future for composites, especially high-performance ones».
The cost of composites continues to be a problem. How could it be lowered?
«The cost of composites can only be lowered by leveraging raw materials and out of autoclave technologies. Which is not easy to do if you need high-performance materials or if the final result, in terms of product quality, can only be achieved by relying on traditional production technologies, therefore the autoclave. However, if the legislation, as in the case of aeronautics, imposes very strict standards, it is clear that this discourse becomes relative. Then, of course, we need to continue investing in automation and reducing processing times».
What do you think about the future of nanocomposites?
«For nanocomposites we can imagine a future that is still in a niche. We will have to wait a few more years to start seeing something ».
Luigi Torre is full professor of Material Science and of Technology of Polymer and Composites. He got his degree from the University of Naples and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington (Seattle) USA. Currently professor Torre is the director of the Material Science and Technology Laboratory of the University of Perugia which employs 20 Researchers post-doc and graduate students. He's been President of SAMPE Europe (Society of Advancement Material and Process Engineering) from 2008 to 2009 and President of SAMPE Global in 2016. He has published more than 180 papers on International Journal edited books and proceeding of international conferences.
16 February 2021