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Developing new materials to accelerate the arrival of ‘air taxis’

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has announced a significant breakthrough in the development of self-reinforced composites (SRCs), a next-generation composite material with excellent physical properties and recyclability. SRCs, made from a single type of polypropylene (PP) polymer, are gaining attention as a potential replacement for carbon fiber-reinforced composites used in aircraft due to their low cost, lightweight nature, and recyclability advantages.

Dr. Jaewoo Kim from the Solutions to Electromagnetic Interference in Future Mobility (SEIF) team at KIST, along with Prof. Seonghoon Kim from Hanyang University and Prof. O-bong Yang from Jeonbuk National University, successfully developed a 100% SRC by utilizing only one type of polypropylene polymer.

Unlike previous manufacturing processes that involved mixing chemically different components in the reinforcement or matrix to enhance fluidity and impregnation, this research team achieved control over the melting point, fluidity, and impregnation by adjusting the chain structure of the polypropylene matrix using a four-axis extrusion process.

The newly developed SRCs demonstrated outstanding mechanical properties, surpassing previous studies. The material exhibited a remarkable improvement in adhesion strength, tensile strength, and impact resistance by 333%, 228%, and 2,700% respectively. Furthermore, when used as a frame material for a small drone, the SRCs were 52% lighter than conventional carbon fiber-reinforced composites, resulting in a 27% increase in flight time. These findings highlight the material’s potential for application in next-generation mobility solutions.

Dr. Kim of KIST expressed the practicality of the engineering process for 100% SRCs and emphasized its immediate applicability to various industries. The team intends to continue collaborating with research partners and industries to enhance the global competitiveness of magnetically reinforced composites.

This breakthrough in developing a 100% SRC material offers promising prospects for future mobility, particularly in the context of urban air mobility (UAM), by providing a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly solution that reduces carbon emissions.




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