Researchers at the ITM are planning to develop a completely new class of materials in which actuators and sensors are integrated directly into flexible fiber composites – contrary to the state-of-the-art. To this end, the German Research Foundation (DFG), Bonn/Germany, approved the 2nd phase of Research Training Group 2430 "Interactive Fiber-Elastomer Composites" at the Institute for Textile Machinery and High-Performance Textile Materials Technology (ITM) at TU Dresden/Germany, in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden. A total of 22 doctoral students will be supported in 11 interdisciplinary sub-projects over the next 4.5 years, in addition to material and project funding.
As a result, the simulation-based development of intelligent material combinations for so-called self-sufficient fiber composites will be available. Actuators and sensors are already integrated into the structures and no longer placed subsequently, as is currently the case. In the first funding phase, the important basis for the large 2-dimensional (2D) deformations in soft, biomimetic structures were developed. The further funding by the DFG is a confirmation of the outstanding results achieved so far. Building on this, the second funding phase will focus on ionic and helical actuator-sensor concepts. Combined with intelligent design and control algorithms, self-sufficient, 3D deforming material systems will emerge. This will make these systems more robust, complex preforming patterns can be customized at the desired location, reversibly and contact-free.
Fiber composites are used increasingly in moving components due to their high specific stiffness and strengths as well as the possibility of tailoring these properties. By integrating adaptive functions into such materials, the need for subsequent actuator placement is eliminated and the robustness of the system is significantly improved. Actuators and sensors based on textiles, such as those being researched and developed at the ITM, are particularly promising in this respect, as they can be integrated directly into the fiber composites during the manufacturing process.
With their innovative properties, interactive fiber-elastomer composites are predestined for numerous fields of application in mechanical and vehicle engineering, robotics, architecture, orthotics and prosthetics: Examples include systems for precise gripping and transport processes (e.g. in hand prostheses, closures and deformable membranes) and components (e.g. trim tabs for land and water vehicles).