2018-03-14 08:30

Uniting strengths in new materials

One university is an expert in producing biocomposites, the other on advanced crash tests. For five years, a successful cooperation has developed between the University of Borås and the University of Portsmouth.

In the beginning of March, Hom Dhakal, teacher and researcher at the University of Portsmouth and lecturer at the University of Borås, visited Borås to give a lecture to students in Textile Engineering.

"We work together in education and research and thus strengthen each other. For example, we have published two scientific articles and two or three manuscripts are on the way”, says Hom Dhakal.

Their joint studies are about developing and testing biodegradable lightweight composites from, for example, flax, jute or hemp. The material is developed at the University of Borås and crash test is conducted at the University of Portsmouth.

“We have advanced equipment to find out what happens to the material when subjected to a shock or collision.”

He explains that the research group (read more about the group below) performs batch testing on the biocomposites and uses X-ray microtomography (micro-CT) to investigate if they have defects that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

“You can describe the technique as a scan of the material layer for layer, the result being a 3D image of the test body. This way, we can see if a biocomposite, that looks unaffected on the outside, is damaged on the inside", he says.

Adapting composites to cars

The properties of the material are adapted to suit the automotive industry with the purpose of use as an alternative to carbon or glass fibers. Hom Dhakal takes car manufacturing as an example: Lightweight materials in cars are difficult and expensive to recycle and require a lot of energy to produce compared to biocomposites.

"The applications for the materials we produce are many more, for example in airplanes, sporting goods and building components. But we produce the material to fit the automotive industry because they have such specific requirements.”

The research group at the University of Portsmouth is called The Advanced Materials & Manufacturing (AMM) Research Group. At the University of Borås it is the research group Polymer Technology that is part of the collaboration. The leader of the research group, Professor Mikael Skrifvars, tells us that the cooperation is advancing the research.

“Research is slow, but the industry wants progress. Therefore, we unite our strengths to get to the next level faster", he says.

They also cooperate with regard to teaching. Mikael Skrifvars regularly visits Portsmouth to lecture and Hom Dhakal held a lecture for students in Textile Engineering at his visit.

"We want the students to be familiar with the latest research on new materials so that when they get to work in the industry, they will bring knowledge of new materials and sustainability", says Mikael Skrifvars.

Text and photo: Anna Kjellsson
Translation: Suss Wilén