Final Report Summary - EUCARBON (European Space Qualified Carbon Fibres and Pre-Impregnated Based Materials)
The EUCARBON project aimed at overcoming the currently need of European suppliers for high and ultra-high modulus carbon fibres and associated prepreg materials for satellite subsystems applications. Due the current supplying of such materials by only non-European companies, this technology is considered a critical technology for Space applications, with a high risk for future missions.
It was objective to establish in Europe a manufacturing site (owned by European capitals) to produce such fibres and to develop know-how on the preparation of the associated pre-impregnated materials. It was further objective to evaluate the preparation of novel prepregs based on the resin modification with carbon nanotubes to provide prepregs with improved thermal and electrical conductivity for high performance applicartions.
In this project, it was successfully implemented the required manufacturing facilities, at a semi-industrial scale, to obtain the high modulus carbon fibres (at Fisipe, Barreiro, Portugal), being achieved 12k-based carbon fibres with a tensile modulus of 348GPa, tensile strength of 4300MPa, elongation at failure of 1.2% and a density of 1.72g/cm3. It was further initiated the development of a fibre precursor of 6k filaments targeting ultra-high modulus carbon fibre manufacturing.
On the pre-impregnated materials level it could be developed prepregs with reference space qualified carbon fibres from intermediate to ultra-high modulus values (in particuar, IMS60 from Toho Tenax and M40J and M55J from Toray), and the development of the pre-impregnation process required to obtain prepregs with Space relevant characteristics. It was further demonstrated the sucessful pre-impregnation of the European High Modulus carbon fibres developed by Fisipe. These materials were shown to be compliant with critical Space applications requirements, such as the thermal cycling, outgassing, and maintaining suitable mechanical performance at temperatures down to -100ºC. On the development of prepregs with carbon nanotubes, it was shown a suitable process that could reach 1.5% of carbon nanotubes (in an expoxy weight basis), and established correlations between their
related the involved surface functionalities, nanomaterials loading ratios and different dispersion techniques on resin curing kinetics, rheology, dispersion and distribution, and its impact on the pre-impregation process and composites final properties.
Two Space components demonstrators were successfully designed and manufactured with the prepregs containing the EUCARBON’s high modulus carbon fibres: a strut (manufactured as a tube) and an antenna sub-reflector. These demonstrator showed performance in agreement with what would be expected with the properties determined at a materials level (carbon fibre and prepregs) and suitability to be manufactured in an industrial environment.
The obtained results represent an important milestone on the European capacity to supply high modulus carbon fibres for Space applications in a view of reducing its dependency on non-European technology. The development of industrial facilities for the manufacturing of high modulus carbon fibres and the developed know-how on the preparation of related prepregs is also an important step to establish an European industrial network (from raw-mateirals suppliers to final integrators and end-users) in the field of high performance carbon fibre reinforced polymer composites.
Project Context and Objectives:
EUCARBON project aims to overcome the present recognized needs of European made space qualified carbon fibre and prepreg materials. These materials are building blocks for technological innovation in Space research. Presently, aerospace qualified carbon fibre is either produced outside Europe or produced in Europe under foreign countries supervision by only one source. This issue weakens European competitiveness in Space, mainly related to the increased delivery lead times and costs. Therefore, the possibility for Europe to have free, unrestricted access to these materials requires their development in European facilities under European supervision.
The main project objectives are:
1. To develop carbon fibres in Europe for use in high demanding applications such as satellite components
2. To develop carbon fibres with an elastic modulus of about 350GPa in the short-term and in 500GPa in the medium-term
3. To develop pre-impregnated materials based on European carbon fibres.
4. To design, manufacture and test one component for satellites by using the new European pre-impregnated materials.
5. In addition, pre-impregnated materials with improved electrical and thermal properties will be developed by the use of carbon nanotubes doped resin matrices.
On the carbon fibre development work, the main results that have been achieved are the following:
- Successful implementation of the manufacturing process with the Ultra High Temperature Graphitization furnace;
- Scaling-up of precursor production to an industrial level;
- Progressive movement from large tow to smaller tow carbon fibre production (50k, 24k, 12k);
- Best achieved results with 12k carbon fibres: tensile modulus of 348GPa, tensile strength of 4300MPa, elongation at failure of 1.2% and a density of 1.72g/cm3;
- It has been initiated fibre precursor of 6k filaments targeting ultra-high modulus carbon fibre manufacturing.
On the pre-impregnation process development, the research work carried out in the second period of the project has given rise to the following outcomes:
- Manufacturing of prepregs with reference high modulus (M40J from Toray) and ultra-high modulus carbon fibres (M55J from Toray);
- Tuning of pre-impregnation process based on control of process parameters, such as tension level, resin viscosity, temperature profiles, resin squeezing, processing/residence times, targeted areal weight, surface mass and prepreg thickness;
- Successful pre-impregnation of High Modulus carbon fibres manufactured by Fisipe;
- Pre-impregnation of Intermediate and High Modulus carbon fibres with carbon nanotubes-doped epoxy resins (with contents up to 1.5% in epoxy weight basis);
- Evaluation of carbon nanotubes surface functionalities, loading ratios and other physical/chemical dispersion techniques on curing kinetics, rheological profiles, and their dispersion and distribution, and their impact on pre-impregnation processing and CFRP final properties;
- Space qualification testing showed survivability to thermal cycling and good outgassing performance according to ECSS standards, and maintaining mechanical performance at temperatures down to -100ºC.
Considering the targeted Space Satellite Sub-Systems applications and the characteristics of the materials obtained, two Space components demonstrators were successfully designed and manufactured with the prepregs containing the EUCARBON’s high modulus carbon fibres: a strut (manufactured as a tube) and an antenna sub-reflector. These demonstrator were further tested using standard procedures typically used for Space components performance evaluation, showing good performance in agreement with what would be expected with the properties determined at a materials level (carbon fibre and prepregs) and suitability to be manufactured in an industrial environment.
The results that have been achieved are expected to have the following impacts:
- Implementation of a manufacturing site in Fisipe (Barreiro, Portugal) will result in the possibility to supply High Modulus Carbon Fibres for Space applications at a short term and of Ultra-High Modulus Carbon Fibres at a mid-term;
- Established know-how on the high modulus carbon fibre manufacturing process, from precursor formulation to final conversion, will support further European developments on high performance carbon fibres;
- Increased competitiveness of the European sector on the high performance carbon fibre-based products;
- Established know-how to develop pre-impregnated materials, for high performance carbon fibres and with tailor-made resin formulations, is expected to improve European innovation capacity in prepreg products;
- Implemented capacity for industrial production and development on high modulus carbon fibres, and associated prepregs, is expected to boost European technical capabilities in the supply of new materials for high performance CFRP applications;
- New market opportunities will be created in Europe in the full CFRP sector, such as in production of resins, prepregs, reinforcement fabrics, in systems design based on CFRP structures, and in the final CFRP components manufacturers and integrators.
Summary of dissemination and exploitation activities:
- A project website was created to disseminate the project activities and provide a contact means. It is further advertised at INEGI's website
- Participation in 3 international Scientific conferences: "IC3 - International Carbon Composites Conference", "MATCOMP15", and "3rd International Space Conference"
- Participation in industrial events and conferences: "Composites Europe 2014", "GO Carbon Fibre 2014", and "GO Carbon Fibre 2015"
- Involved in 2 "Materials and Processes Technology Board" ESA sessions to present the progress of the project and discuss directions for future development.
- Organisation of a Workshop on the Carbon Fibres for Space Applications topic in combination with GO Carbon Fibre 2015.
- Posters and flyers with preliminary and final results were prepared and are available for further distribution.
- Engagement with the academia: 1 PhD student and 3 MsC Thesis were carried out.
- Scientific papers: 1 in conference proceedings, 1 review and 3 other are in preparation to disseminatie the most relevant scientific outcomes.
List of Websites:
A website to disseminate the EUCARBON has been created with the following address:
The website provides a direct contact for the EUCARBON coordinating person:
Dr. Nuno Rocha
Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, 400
Phones: +351 229578710
A webpage to provide feedback is available in the EUCARBON website: http://www.eucarbon-project.eu/feedback.asp.