A spin off from EPFL in Switzerland has developed a self-healing composite material for systems including wind turbines that can be easily repaired. It raised CHF1m (€900,000) in seed funding
The popularity of composite materials is driving equipment makers to minimise the environmental impact of the materials as they are currently difficult to recycle.
CompPair has developed a self-healing composite that can which can repair themselves in just a few minutes using a hot air gun or infrared heating, and can repair itself up to 60 times without any change to its properties
The company was spun off of EPFL’s Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites (LPAC) and has launched its first family of composites, called HealTech. This is sold as prepegs and can be draped, tacked and cured just like conventional polymers.
“An acquaintance of mine helps repair boats for the America’s Cup, and says that a huge amount of time is spent after each race spotting and repairing places where the boat has been damaged. We’re talking several hours, if not several days,” said Amaël Cohades, CompPair co-founder and CEO. “Once they’ve spotted a crack or dent, for example, they have to cover it with a patch of material, heat the patch and then polish the new surface. But our composites can cut the repair time by a factor of 400.”
“We offer an array of fibre architectures that can be used in all sorts of applications, such as wind turbines and boat hulls,” said Cohades. The startup is working with several other companies to integrate its composites into their products.
“The secret lies in a unique resin that we developed. When heat is applied, part of the resin becomes activated and undergoes a phase change that triggers the physical mechanisms involved in the healing process. As a result, the tears and cracks in the composite are repaired automatically,” said Robin Trigueira, CompPair co-founder and CTO. “In addition, our composites don’t lose any of their structural properties during the repair process, which means there’s no risk of deformation. That makes them well suited to a broad range of applications.”
“Maintenance costs for wind farms worldwide currently run into tens of billions of Swiss francs per year. And end-of-life blades are hard to recycle,” said Cohades. In China, which consumed 4.44 million tons of composites in 2017, the government could soon bring in new, stricter requirements on recycling the waste generated by wind farms.
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