CompPair has developed a new class of self-healing composites that repair themselves in minutes when exposed to heat.
According to the firm’s co-founder and CEO Amaël Cohades, such composites could lengthen a product’s lifespan considerably; a sample of the same was shown to repair itself up to 60 times without any change to its properties.
CompPair was spun off of EPFL’s Laboratory for Processing of Advanced Composites (LPAC) one year ago.
It has already introduced its first family of composites, called HealTech, which are sold as prepegs and can be draped, tacked and cured just like conventional polymers.
These fiber architectures can be used in all sorts of applications ranging from sporting equipment to wind turbines to boat hulls, and can help cut the repair time by a factor of 400.
So how does CompPair’s patented technology work? “The secret lies in a unique resin that we developed,” notes CompPair co-founder and CTO Robin Trigueira.
“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,” says Trigueira.
“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.”
CompPair’s composites could, for example, reduce the environmental impact of wind farms, contends Cohades:
“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.”
The prepegs could further help tennis players repair their worn rackets with a simple hot-air gun in minutes.
“It’s technically possible, because repairing our resin regularly gives it back the same properties as it had when it was brand new,” says Trigueira.
This however isn’t applicable if a player breaks his racket in a fit of rage over a lost point: for now the composite can’t repair itself if the fibers are fully torn.
Image and content: CompPair/EPFL