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Bio-based recyclable, reshapable and repairable (3R) fibre-reinforced EpOXY composites for automotive and construction sectors.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECOXY (Bio-based recyclable, reshapable and repairable (3R) fibre-reinforced EpOXY composites for automotive and construction sectors.)

Reporting period: 2018-12-01 to 2019-11-30

Fibre reinforced thermoset composites (FRTCs) are attractive materials for high demanding sectors, such as automotive or construction, due to their lightweight and excellent mechanical properties. However, the lack of reprocessability and difficulty for repairing and recycling significantly increases the overall material cost and causes grave environmental concerns. Additionally, the vast majority of polymer matrices and fibres used in their manufacturing are non-renewable fossil-derived materials or require high amounts of energy for their production.
Aiming at addressing those limitations by involving the European bio-based industry, ECOXY will develop innovative bio-based epoxy resins and fibre reinforcements to produce new sustainable and techno-economically competitive FRTCs by targeting advanced functionalities: reparability, reprocessability and recyclability (3R). The 3R functionalities will be achieved by using new resin formulations replacing commonly used curing agents by dynamic hardeners, which under certain operational makes possible to: 1) repair fibre/matrix delamination and matrix micro-cracks, 2) reprocess cured laminates to create new 3D parts (impossible with traditional FRTCs), 3) mechanical and chemical recycling.
Thus, ECOXY will develop: 1) tailor-made bio-based epoxy monomers (including biorefinery products), 2) upgraded and functional bio-based fibres (natural and PLA), 3) specific formulations for FRTCs manufacturing processes (RTM, wet compression moulding (WCM) and pultrusion) and 4) additional functionalities such as flame-retardancy for 3R resin and self-healing for fibres.
The selected prototypes will be validated for automotive and construction sectors using relevant standards and applicable certifications. Besides, an environmental (LCA) and socio-economic assessment of the results will be carried out.
The well balanced composition of the consortium, 6 SME, 6 RTO and 1 academia gives ECOXY the maximum chance of success.
Within WP2 specifications have been defined for demonstrator components, for equipment and processes and for bio-based raw materials. A dashboard fascia and a seat back panel were chosen as the demonstrators for the automotive industry (the seat back panel will be prepared in the first trials due to mould availability issues), while a window profile was defined as the demonstrator for the building sector and the requirements for their validation and demonstration of reshaping, repairing and recycling have been defined. In the same way, details of each of the process and product stages (pultrusion, RTM, WCM and thermoforming) have been detailed. Finally, the bio-based fibers and resins that will be investigated in the project were defined considering their suitability for the composite manufacturing processes and targeted applications based on commercially available reference materials.
Based on the aforementioned specifications, bio-based fibers and fabrics (flax and PLA –with and without humins) are being prepared, characterized and accordingly modified within WP3 for their use in the manufacturing of composite materials in WP4 and WP5.
Specifications from WP2 are also being used in WP4 for the development of bio-based epoxy resins (based on vegetable oils or other bio-based epoxy precursors such as vanillyl alcohol or phloroglucinol). Developed resins are being used within this WP4 as well to prepare the targeted 3R bio-based thermoset resins and composites (with fibres and fabrics from WP3). The most suitable resin formulation has been selected for its up-scaling and use in WP5 for the fabrication of demonstrator components.
Within WP5 fabrication of the selected demonstrators for the automotive and the construction sectors via conventional manufacturing techniques such as RTM, WCM, thermoforming or pultrusion will be done using the composites developed in WP4. Adjusting of the processing parameters is being done using commercially available reference resins (combined with the fibres and fabrics developed in WP3 for the WCM and with glass fiber for the pultrusion process). Once the selected bio-based resin formulation is available in a big scale, these optimized processes will be used for manufacturing of the demonstrators with the 3R bio-based composites.
Recyclability, reparability and reprocessability properties (3R) of the developed materials are being studied in WP6. A complete study of the chemical and mechanical recycling of the prepared bio-based 3R thermosets, their reprocessability and their reparability is being done at a lab scale. Additionally, the equipment required for the mechanical recyclability at a bigger scale is being set-up by using conventional thermosets as well as non-biobased 3R thermosets.
Sustainability analyses are being performed within WP7 in order to address the three pillars of sustainability: i) the environmental impacts, through the implementation of the LCA methodology; ii) the capital and operational costs of bio-based composites and components manufacturing through the use of the LCC analysis; and iii) the social and socio-economic impacts (impacts on human beings and society) derived from the production of the target materials and elements are also being determined through a S-LCA. Data collection for LCA, LCC and S-LCA has started.
Finally, visual identity and communication materials of the project have been created in WP8 (project logo, website, social networks, leaflet, stakeholder database…) and several dissemination activities have been carried out as well, following the previously defined dissemination plan. Exploitation strategies and IPR management are also being studied and described within this WP.
During the first 18 months of the project the consortium has worked on the development of epoxy resins from natural resources with the aim of finding a suitable alternative for the most widely used epoxy resin (DGEBA, based on Bisphenol A). These resins are then being combined with the selected hardeners in order to get the target bio-based polymer matrix with advanced 3R functionalities that allow (re)processing, repairing and recycling while keeping their functional properties (something that is not possible with conventional thermoset materials).
During these months work has also been done in the development of natural and bio-based fibres for using them as reinforcements of the aforementioned 3R polymer matrix. Well-known flax fibres needed some treatment and adaptation in order to improve their interaction with the developed resin, and different treatments have been studied with this objective. Additionally, upgraded PLA filaments are being developed with the aim of using them as reinforcing materials and outperforming the existing industrially available PLA yarns. PLA modification with humins is also being studied with this aim.
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