GRADEL and LIST are joining forces to develop a biosourced resin to create lightweight composite materials that respect the environment.
Humanity faces one of its greatest challenges: Climate change and the protection of our planet for future generations. In this context, lightweight materials technology is an important piece of the puzzle, limiting the need for primary energy and natural resources in the face of growing demand from a growing population. This relates to a multi-billion-dollar global market for decades to come.
Light-weighting is good. Light-weighting by using durable materials is better. On Tuesday GRADEL and LIST signed, at the JEC World show in Paris, a new partnership financially supported by the National Research Fund as part of the BRIDGES programme. The goal is to reduce the overall carbon footprint of materials by using more environmentally friendly and reusable/recyclable materials such as renewable fibres like linen, mineral fibres like basalt or cellulosic fibres like rayon. The goal is also to work with bio-based resins that can be processed like a thermosetting resin and easily moulded, but also recycled as a thermoplastic. This is the exact definition of vitrimers for which LIST’s materials department has developed unique know-how and scientific expertise.
The idea of the GREENSHAPEr project is to develop formulations of biobased vitrimers that can be used to produce 3D composite parts using the GRAM process developed by GRADEL, meaning that LIST and GRADEL join their respective forces. The project will be carried out from laboratory scale to a TRL 5 demonstrator.
The aim is to close the circular economy gap in existing composite manufacturing processes, and also to recycle fibres and resins at the end of the product’s life, therefore saving natural resources and primary energy associated with them.
A FIRST SUCCESS IN THE SPACE SECTOR
This is not the first attempt by the two partners. GRADEL has in fact developed a new innovative fibre displacement technology, marketed under the brand name xFK in 3D. An initial research and development project was carried out in collaboration with LIST under the supervision of ESA and with the support of the LSA (Luxembourg Space Agency). Thales Alenia Space, Airbus Defence & Space and OHB are associated customers.
The new industrialised Gradel Robotic Additive Manufacturing (GRAM) facility winds resin-impregnated fibres to build complex ultralight 3D structures, competitive with other technologies used in industry.
A new company, GRADEL LW Sàrl, was also founded in March 2022. An investment of several million euros has been launched to build innovative light structures for the space, aeronautics and mobility of lightweight components at the ZI Bommelscheuer in Bascharage. Not far from there, GRADEL and LIST also share a joint R&D laboratory at the LIST premises in Bascharage.