Technology: Automotive, smart & green fabrics from recycled carbon fibre

31/3/2022

Integrating electronics in car upholstery by using hi-tech fabrics made with carbon fiber scraps is one of the objectives of the industrial research project TEX-STYLE, which includes among its members ENEA and the Fiat Research Center (CRF) as coordinator.

"We have developed an innovative process to produce an electrically conductive yarn using recycled carbon fiber scraps, which can be embedded into fabrics and electronic circuits to exploit their electrical conductivity", explained Flavio Caretto, researcher at the ENEA Functional Materials and Technologies for Sustainable Applications Laboratory and project coordinator for the Agency.

This hi-tech yarn, developed at the ENEA Brindisi Research Center jointly with the University of Bergamo[1], will make it possible to create, for example, a heating system integrated in the upholstery of seats and armrests or wiring integrated with external electronics to perform specific functions, like turning on the lights inside the car.

In order to produce this yarn the team of researchers converted one of the conventional spinning processes and adapted it to the carbon fiber scraps, coming mainly from the industrial and aeronautical sectors (over 50% of a Boeing 878 aircraft is made of carbon fiber).

“Due to its exceptional resistance and light-weight, demand for this fiber has grown dramatically worldwide. Recent studies show that global demand for carbon-based composites has tripled from 2010 to 2020 and is expected to exceed 190,000 tons by 2050. But these large volumes have generated- and will continue to do so - huge amounts of waste.

Researchers and industry itself were therefore encouraged to develop new technologies for carbon fibers recycling, as the project TEX-STYLE proves. With a double advantage, both economical and environmental, as it avoids incineration or disposal in landfills of this precious material ", pointed out Caretto.

In addition to the innovative spinning process, researchers at ENEA tested yarns with different proportions of carbon and polyester fibers to optimize electrical conductivity and workability. "A high percentage of carbon fiber in the yarn guarantees superior electrical properties but makes processing more difficult. Therefore we had to find a compromise between the fiber mix proportion and the quality of the semi-finished products.

Our laboratory tests suggested that the mix percentage that performs best is 40% carbon fiber and 60% polyester. The next step will be to transfer our innovation from the lab to industry ", concluded Caretto. In addition to the automotive sector, thanks to a total funding of around 10 million euro[2], the other partners of the project TEX-STYLE are studying new intelligent and multifunctional fabrics based on natural, bio-derived and recycled fibers to be used in technical textile manufacturing and the fashion and furniture sectors.

In fact, starting from a mix of sustainable and intelligent materials, TEX-STYLE will pave the way to designing high quality, low environmental impact, creative products with an Italian-made label. The project partnership lies on the concept of the supply chain, which envisages the participation of research bodies (University of Cagliari and Bologna, ENEA, CRdC Nuove Tecnologie per le Attività Produttive scarl), SMEs and large enterprises; all stages of the value chain are covered and range from design (Dreamlux, Centro Stile FCA, Let's - Webearable Solutions srl), to materials (Irplast, Technova), from smart fabrics (Let's - Webearable Solutions srl, Dreamlux, Apollo, to end users for the various applications (CRF / FCA, Let's - Webearable Solutions srl, Dreamlux), supported by national associations in the fashion and furniture sectors (Cosmob, Next).

For more information please contact:

Flavio Caretto, ENEA – Laboratory of Functional Materials and Technologies for Sustainable Applications, flavio.caretto@enea.it

Spinning process

“New light-weight and sustainable materials in transportation – ERN Apulia (ern-apulia.it)”



[1] Department of Management, Information and Production Engineering

[2] Project funded as part of the National Operational  Program For Research and Innovation 2014 – 2020 Ministry of University and Researc

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