Luxembourg to strengthen its research activities in light-weight composite materials
Dr Cláudio Sául Faria Lopes, an internationally renowned expert on composite materials, has been awarded an FNR PEARL Chair. This Chair is endowed with 3.97 MEUR over five years. Claudio Lopes joined the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology in early January 2020 where he leads the Structural Composites Unit of the Materials Research and Technology Department.
The PEARL programme, funded by the FNR, provides competitive funding to attract top researchers in strategic research areas for Luxembourg.
Dr Lopes’ project aims at equipping Luxembourg’s R&D environment with an integrated capability to address the development of the next generation of ultra-lightweight composite materials and structures. This will be done by seamlessly coupling innovative material, design, manufacturing and structural concepts for fibre-reinforced polymers (FRP). FRPs have been used in the automotive and aerospace industries for more than 50 years in applications where their high strength and lightweight can be used to great advantage. The positioning of the project, at crossroads between composites science, technology and engineering, will allow the permeation of Luxembourg’s composites industry and will enable disruptive developments in the aerospace sector and others.
“In a sustainable future, light-weightiness is a quality to be pursued in every human-made product. It means less use of resources, less energy-intensive transportation and lower emissions”, says Dr Lopes. “In essence, light-weighting is a synonym of reduced environmental impact. Our project, called DRIVECOMP, is about pioneering the next generation of lightweight materials: ultra-lightweight fibre-reinforced plastics produced by additive manufacturing. The project targets transportation in general, and specifically aeronautical applications, wherein lightweight structures have the highest economic and environmental impact.”
The development of ultra-lightweight structural concepts will be leveraged by additive manufacturing processes such as 3D-printing. The greatest potential of this technology is the ability to manufacture complex, optimised and highly customised artificial materials and structures with mechanical behaviour adapted to the application.
Dr Lopes further explains: “DRIVECOMP will surpass current technology in order to achieve artificial fibre-reinforced materials with highly customisable behaviour. The exploitation of such possibilities will, for example, allow unprecedented increases in structural performance, reduction of aircraft weight, lower operational costs, higher flight efficiency, longer flight autonomy, as well as lower environmental impact. Though the possibilities are not restricted to the aeronautical sector, but can also find applications, for example in the automotive sector.”
A major contribution of this FNR funded project is the development and implementation of data-driven virtual design tools that will allow the exploration of the most weight-efficient designs and will help expedite their certification. The project will develop the methodology to explore the vast design space of ultra-lightweight composites enabled by novel additive manufacturing technologies and contribute to the reduction of the experimental effort to characterise these materials by the exclusive means of test campaigns.
Thomas Kallstenius, CEO of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology is delighted. “LIST’s presence and international standing in the transportation sector will significantly benefit from Dr Lopes’ research. Being granted one of the rare and prestigious FNR PEARL Chair is a strong recognition of the quality of this new project. DRIVECOMP will leverage the role of LIST in national initiatives related to composite materials and the space sector, potentiate collaborations with specialised companies in these domains. Fully aligned with our materials research strategy, the project will open doors of other sectors of application of lightweight composite structures such as automotive, marine, renewable energy.”
“I am very pleased that Dr Lopes joins the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology to drive the development of the next generation of ultra-lightweight additively manufactured FRPs. This high-profile recruitment illustrates once more the FNR’s strategy to stimulate research excellence in key strategic areas for Luxembourg. I believe that this project is an important addition to the landscape of Luxembourg research and illustrates the strong links that exist between public research and industry”, states Dr Marc Schiltz, CEO of the FNR.
With the PEARL programme, the FNR offers Luxembourg research institutions attractive funding to enable them to draw established and internationally recognised researchers from abroad to Luxembourg. Through the recruitment of outstanding scientists in strategically important areas, the FNR aims to accelerate the development and strengthening of Luxembourg’s national research priorities. PEARL is open to private sponsorships, donators and foundations that would like to support this aim.