Composite materials typically combine two different types of materials to provide better properties than when they act alone.

This concept is widely seen in nature, where plants and trees use a combination of stiff and strong filaments embedded in a resin.  The fibres provide strength and stiffness along their length, while the resin holds all the fibres together and transfers stress between adjacent fibres.  This results in a material that is very strong, directly resisting loads in the directions they are applied.

Modern composite materials are constructed in much the same way.  By embedding fibres (typically made from glass or carbon) in a resin (typically epoxy), it is possibly to produce a very light weight material with high strength and stiffness in the fibre direction.  By analysing the loads experienced by a structure (e.g. an aircraft wing), the fibres can be aligned to resist only these loads, minimising excess materials usage.  This results in a highly optimised and lightweight structures, which offer significant benefit to a number of applications.  For example, aircraft can now be designed to be lighter, increasing both their payload and range capabilities, while simultaneously reducing their fuel burn and greenhouse gas emissions.  Likewise, spacecraft can also be lighter, resulting in additional payload mass being available and reducing mission costs.  Racing cars and yachts also use these materials to improve their performance by producing lightweight vehicles.


PROJECTS


FIBRESHIP 

The goal of FIBRESHIP is to enable the construction of the entire hull and superstructure of large-length, seagoing and inland ships in fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) materials by overcoming several key technical challenges.


LIBRE

The LIBRE project consists of a consortium of industry and academic research organisations. It aims to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of lignin based carbon fibre materials for application in energy and automotive sectors.


VARICOMP

Varicomp considers the new high-value design and manufacturing area of shape changing composite materials and their engineering structures.  Currently, composites provide excellent strength and stiffness at low weight, hence being suitable for structures that move, e.g. bicycles, cars, aeroplanes and spacecraft.

We will enable new composite materials and structures that can reshape themselves and respond to changes in their environment to improve performance, e.g. shape changing aircraft where wing shape changes as it transitions from take-off to cruise and back to landing, similar to bird flight.



Dr Ioannis Manolakis

Co-Investigator & Project Manager
IComp Research Coordinator


 

Dr. Ioannis Manolakis is the UL co-Investigator and Project Manager in the Horizon 2020 project FIBRESHIP, with Dr Anthony Comer as the UL Principal Investigator.  He is also the principal investigator in an Innovation Partnership project with Ventac (an Irish SME specializing in acoustic solutions for the land transport and agricultural sectors) on composite materials for noise reduction solutions.  Since joining IComp and UL, Ioannis has attracted more than 800 k€ in research funding, as main or co-applicant.


Dr Maurice Collins

Bernal vice-lead of composite materials
Lignin Based Carbon Fibres for Composites (LIBRE)


Maurice is a lecturer in the School of Engineering, is the vice-lead of composite materials at the Bernal Institute, is a member of the Bernal Oversight Group and the Bernal Leadership Team.  The principal focus of his research group is on the structure/property relationships of naturally derived macromolecular materials in the application areas of regenerative medicine, drug delivery, transport and energy.  He has a strong track record in attracting industrial funding and managing research partnerships with leading multinational companies.  To date, Maurice has been awarded >€8million in research funding.  He is the lead PI and coordinator of the H2020 LIBRE consortium, the largest sustainable carbon fibre consortium in Europe.


Prof. Paul Weaver

Bernal Chair Composite Materials and their Structures
SFI Research Professor


Paul is an authority in the field of structural mechanics for composite materials, a pioneer in the emerging field of morphing composite structures, and an expert in the structural mechanics of buckling and postbuckling of optimised composite structures.  He has also contributed to the development of a novel manufacturing technology for composites (Continuous Tow Shearing).

He exploits the stiffness tailoring capability of composite structures and applies this knowledge to the design of aircraft, rocket structures, high performance yachts and wind turbine blades to name just a few application areas.  He studies the interactions between (mostly) mechanical properties of materials and structural geometry and models their effect on the overall performance of  structures that move.  Such structures place a premium on being lightweight and being efficient or ‘slippy’ in the medium they move, whether it is air or water!