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Europe strengthens capacity to produce high-performance composites for space

06 May 2022
It took more than 4 years of work, in which INEGI participated alongside 5 European partners, to create composite materials reinforced with carbon fibers and high-performance pre-impregnated materials, for launchers and space satellites.

The main objective was to strengthen European capacity to produce these materials and reduce dependence on non-European sources. A goal that, for the person responsible for the project at INEGI, was achieved. "Thanks to the work of this consortium, production capacity was implemented, on a semi-industrial scale, of manufacturing processes for intermediate modulus carbon fibers (IMCF), and high modulus carbon fibers (HMCF), as well as new formulations of pre-pregs for future spatial structural components”, says Nuno Rocha.

"These materials, produced as part of the project, are competitively positioned in the fiber and composites market for space applications. And the fact that they are produced in Europe guarantees greater availability and shorter delivery times", he adds.

The project also contemplated the ability to test and validate these materials under conditions relevant to space, as well as using advanced characterization techniques to support the development process. It will cease activity after producing launcher and satellite demonstrator subcomponents.

INEGI contributed to advances in the area of ​​pre-impregnated materials and their modification with nanomaterials

During the project, INEGI distinguished itself by "acquiring the capacity to produce hot melt prepregs on a laboratory scale, to support the development of prepregs and validate the carbon fibers developed before being implemented in the semi-industrial process of impregnation”, says Joana Guedes, researcher who participated in this development.

The team was also able to develop "materials pre-impregnated with resins modified with (nano) particles, and thus improve key properties of the materials, such as impact resistance and their thermal and electrical conductivity”.

These advances are an example of the Institute's work in the space sector, which has been standing out through its activity, largely developed within the scope of projects with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Project ends with conference dedicated to European Excellence in Space

To mark the end of the project and present the results achieved, Porto and INEGI will host the «Space Carbon Conference on European carbon fibers and composites for Space» and the final meeting between the partners.

The conference will take place between the 7th and 8th of June, in a hybrid format - at the Alfândega do Porto Congress Center and online - and already has, among the confirmed speakers, representatives of the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), European Defense Agency (EDA), and Portugal Space – PT Space. Participation is free, upon registration until May 13.

The meeting, taking place at INEGI, will feature project partners, namely the companies Airbus Defense and Space (ASE), SGL Carbon, AVIO and Aerospace & Advanced Composites GmbH (AAC), and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). ).

The project «SpaceCarbon - European Carbon Fibers and Pre-Impregnated Materials for Space Applications» is co-financed by the European Union through the HORIZONTE 2020 programme.

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