Advanced, lightweight materials continue to play an important role to the automotive industry, with technology and research providing new and improved resources in a constant drumbeat of innovation.
Such materials are important to vehicle manufacturers because they simultaneously reduce vehicle weight—in turn, improving gas mileage—while in many cases providing stronger, safer components than some more traditional methods.
Now, through research conducted by UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya and Hicham Ghossein, Vaidya’s graduate research assistant, those materials have undergone another evolution.
“Our new technique allows us to make carbon fiber nonwovens with minimal defects,” said Vaidya. “Also, our process results in nonwoven carbon intermediates, cost less, and have better efficiency in manufacturing composites.”
In basic terms, they take chopped carbon fiber as a source product and process them into mats of non-woven fibers.
They then take those mats and infuse them with resin, giving them panels with all of the advantages over current iterations.
Ghossein, who, like Vaidya, works out of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering at UT and with IACMI—The Composites Institute, said that he’s excited about what the project has turned into: Its own company.
“Thanks to the backing of everyone at the UT Research Foundation, we were able to not only apply for a patent for our method, but were also able to spin it off into our new company, Endeavor Composites, Inc.,” said Ghossein, who serves as president of the new venture. “We hope to really build this out and ramp up production.”
Endeavor Composites Inc. was founded as a result from significant support from the Innovation Crossroads program, which was founded by ORNL, the US Department of Energy, and TVA as a way to “help entrepreneurs create the next generation of clean energy companies.” That program brings together research, experienced professionals, and economic and industrial opportunities to help ideas become reality.
Officially on the record as “Innovative Mixer for Fiber Dispersion in Wet Laid System,” UTRF was able to grant them an 18-month, exclusive option on the technology.
Ghossein, who earned his doctorate from MABE in 2018, has already set lofty goals for the new company, including:
- Ramping up production of the new materials;
- Controlling and tailoring the orientation of fibers in the materials;
- Testing the use of other materials within the design of the mats.
With those goals in mind, and having already demonstrated success, this could be just the beginning for his company.