INNOVATION

The innovative composite enriched with nanoparticles

Originally supported by NASA, this material was developed by Professor Kuang-Ting Hsiao's group at the University of South Alabama

MHP Americas unveiled that a new innovative plastic composite enriched with nanoparticles and reinforced with carbon fibers was produced, and its name is ZT-CFRP.

Originally supported by NASA, this novel material was developed by Professor Kuang-Ting Hsiao's group at the University of South Alabama. To fully exploit the enormous potential offered by this advanced composite material and to ensure that ZT-CFRP can be brought to a wider market swiftly, the university has set up a research partnership which is funded by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF).

In addition to the University of South Alabama, five companies from a range of sectors have been involved in the partnership, each bringing unique skill sets: MHP, Porsche Motorsports, UST Mamiya, Hexcel Corporation and Toray Composite Materials America.

MHP will play a key role in this collaboration working closely with the university supporting the design of a roll-to-roll production process for ZT-CFRP, which will enable large quantities of the material to be produced at low cost.

“Our colleague Dr. Sebastian Kirmse wrote his dissertation at the University of South Alabama and, during this time, was involved in the research for this new, exciting composite,” explains Tobias Hoffmeister, President and CEO of MHP Americas, Inc. “When Sebastian joined MHP in early 2020, he informed us about the new technology and got us involved. We were all convinced that the composite material had considerable potential, right from the outset.”

The plastic composite, which is enriched with specifically-oriented nanoparticles and reinforced with carbon fibers, has a number of properties that make it stand out from other composite materials in this group. Carbon nanofibers are threaded between the conventional carbon fibers in a zigzag formation, producing a fabric in which the mechanical, electrical and thermal loads are distributed in all directions within the composite, thus massively increasing the material's conductivity (especially orthogonal to the fiber direction).

This means that ZT-CFRP is not only lighter than aluminum and tougher than steel it is also significantly less vulnerable to mechanical forces, such as impact damage, than conventional carbon fiber reinforced plastics. ZT-CFRP will be available both in the form of a prepreg roll and as a thin resin film that can be used to optimize traditional prepreg materials or to adhesively join two materials with improved mechanical, thermal, and electrical connection and durability.

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