IMDEA Materials Institute, in cooperation with the R&T Materials & Processing unit of AIRBUS Operations, has completed the first validation trials at AIRBUS Getafe facilities of an alternative curing technology for commercial epoxy resins/adhesives by passing an electrical current trough them. This curing process is compatible with qualified aerospace resins/adhesives, while more time and energy efficient than traditional methods.
The technology has been under joint development by research teams of the two institutions since 2013 and has now reached aerospace TRL3 after demonstration with qualified aerospace thermoset resins. Dr. Juan Vilatela, head researcher of the Multifunctional Nanocomposites Group of IMDEA Materials Institute and technical responsible of the project, commented: “There are numerous advantages of curing epoxies by just passing electric current though them. The process has one-to-one energy conversion, that is, all the electric power is transformed into heat. Besides, by avoiding the use of an autoclave, oven or infra-red lamp, the curing process is simplified and made much faster. Whereas in traditional methods heat flows from the source, for example an oven, to the mould, then to the part, in resistive curing the heat is generated directly within the sample”
Thermal image of temperature distribution during resin electric curing
Tamara Blanco, R&T Materials & Processing coordinator and leader of the project from AIRBUS side, continues: “this curing technology can significantly lower energy consumption during repairs and/or assembly of selected parts of the aircraft. On the other hand, composite repairs and/or assembly costs can be dramatically reduced by avoiding use of autoclaves, ovens or other heating means and by reducing highly the curing time”.