Composing New Composites
They are found in automotive components, small sledges, sporting goods, containers and implanted in the body. We all know what plastics and textiles are, but few reflect on the fact that the material consists of composites. At the University of Borås, there is a small but prominent research team engaged in the development of new composite materials.
In simple terms, composites can be described as an artificial compound material. The constituent materials each have different properties, but together they form a new material with new properties - composite.
“Some advantages are that composite materials are lightweight, have good mechanical properties and a production process that allows one to produce complex products in a cost effective manner,” says Mikael Skrifvars, Professor in Polymer Technology at the University of Borås.
He leads the research group which, besides himself, consists of two senior researchers, four doctoral students, one lab technician, and a few students. The composite researchers in Borås are not only engaged in work with plastic composites, but also textiles and yarn. In collaboration with the Swedish School of Textiles, for example, a composite fibre has been developed that can be used for bone implants. The composite material allows the body's own cells to grow into the implant, something which contributes to better healing. The researchers in Borås are particularly focused on natural fibre as composite material, as well as how the composites can be recycled in order to achieve an environmentally sustainable product.
During the eleven years that Mikael Skrifvars has worked at the University of Borås, he and his colleagues have built a dynamic research group which eagerly and frequently collaborates with researchers at other universities and with industry. The research conducted by the group is of direct benefit to society.
“Our research is of interest to very many businesses, as many of them use composites in their manufacturing,” says Mikael Skrifvars.
In the near future, the composite researchers aim to investigate the lucrativeness of the materials that have been developed. Skrifvars and his colleagues wish to, in collaboration with industry and other research groups, manufacture products on a large scale in order to investigate the commercial viability.
“Our priority is to produce results that can be applied industrially."
One of the biggest challenges is to secure funding for continued research, something that requires a lot of time. At the same time, the researchers strive to maintain the level of their own research, a prerequisite for finding good partners.
"We have several projects in the works, where companies have seen that we maintain a high level and want to collaborate with us,“ says Mikael Skrifvars.
Text: Helena Lindh
Photo: Anna Sigge