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"Fuzzy fiber" poised to revolutionize composites behind Third Frontier funding

A news release calls it "a game-changing new nanomaterial that will allow composites to multitask - a wind turbine tower that can de-ice its own blades in winter, or store energy to release on a calm day, powering a grid even when its blades are not moving. Or a military vehicle whose armor can serve as a battery - powering some of the vehicle's electrical components."

Khalid Lafdi, who discovered the material, says it's not hype. He says his "fuzzy fiber" could revolutionize everything from water treatment to electronics to the manufacture of airplane parts.

Lafdi, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Dayton and group leader for carbon materials at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), says the new carbon nanomaterial surfaced eight or nine years ago while he was working on subcontract with the U.S. Air Force. But the material has drawn more attention recently because of a $3-million Ohio Third Frontier award to UDRI to fund scale-up and production.

Most carbon nanomaterials are used purely for structural purposes. They are stiff, light and strong. But they are poor conductors of heat or electricity because they are locked inside a flat sheet of resin. Sort of like slicked down hair.

But, Lafdi says, imagine if you put that gel into your hair and tousled it for a rakish, stylish Hollywood look. Voila -- more surface area, which makes for a better conductor of heat and electricity and provides other functionality that traditional carbon nanomaterials can't approach. All without lessening the structural benefits.

The Third Frontier award will help fund creation and equipment of a full-scale production facility for the hybrid fabric. The award will be matched by UDRI and Ohio collaborators Goodrich and Owens Corning -- potential end users of the material -- and Renegade Materials -- which intends to commercialize the product.

Source, Khalid Lafdi, UDRI
Writer: Gene Monteith

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