ESR04 - Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium


Title: Processing and mechanical characterization of recyclable vitrimer composites for automotive applications


Vitrimers are a groundbreaking development in polymer chemistry. This new class of polymers is neither thermoset, nor thermoplastic, but inherits properties from both polymer classes. Vitrimers were “invented” by Prof. Leibler in Paris in 2011 (
Many applications can be imagined, but the application of vitrimers as the polymer matrix in fibre-reinforced composites, is particularly attractive, because the recycling of fibre-reinforced composites could be drastically improved.
The objectives for the PhD researcher ESR4 are: Apply state-of-the-art methodologies to elaborate and perform in-depth characterization of epoxy-based glass- and carbon-fibre-reinforced vitrimer composites (FRVCs) involving transesterification exchanges. This will include:
1 – Lab-scale production of FRVCs without defects, voids or delaminations using RTM, infusion methods or compression moulding/thermoforming;
2 – Mechanical characterization (elasticity, yield stress, failure strength, fracture toughness, temperature-dependent behaviour) and characterization of the reinforcement/vitrimer matrix interface bonding strength;
3 – Mechanical characterization of static (nonlinear) behaviour, delamination resistance, creep, fracture toughness and residual properties after reshaping or recycling steps (e.g. shredding and further compression moulding); and
4 – Characterization of properties related to automotive applications (ageing, high speed impact, fatigue, electrical properties).

Expected results:

The PhD researcher ESR4 will develop fast cure of epoxy vitrimers compliant with the existing technology of fibre-reinforced epoxy composites processing. ESR4 will elaborate and perform mechanical characterization of FRVCs combining continuous or short glass or carbon fibres and epoxy vitrimers based on transesterification, quantify and rank their performances compared to benchmark thermoset and thermoplastic composites before and after several thermoforming or recycling steps. ESR4 will evaluate their ability to extend their service life thanks to their self-healing and welding ability. ESR4 will also study their recycling (by e.g. shredding and compression moulding). Development of new epoxy-based vitrimers permits to take advantage of the existing technological environment: equipment, resin, fibre-sizing, already optimized for epoxy composites and the vast portfolio of epoxy hardeners and accelerators. Based on their performances best FRVCs will be considered in the automotive sector as lightweight recyclable parts for structural applications (e.g. boot lids, chassis, hang-on, doors, or body in white parts, intrusion beams, parts of the hood, bumper parts), and as parts for high pressure gas tanks, or for hydrogen tanks and electrical engines of electrically powered vehicles.

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Prof. W. Van Paepegem Dr. I. Christiaens



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