Due to resource scarcity and intense pressure to become carbon neutral, companies in industries like textile, packaging, and construction are looking for alternative materials to replace unsustainable ones and improve the performance of their products through new, improved designs.
The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo/Finland, has expanded the application of its Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) toolbox ProperTune beyond hard materials like metals to now model and design soft materials like wood, polymers and plastics. This allows companies to cut down product development time by at least 50%, decrease cost elements of product development, reduce environmentally harmful materials and design entirely new materials that perform better.
This expanded use of ICME makes it fast and economically viable for the replacement of an increased number of unsustainable materials while providing improved material performance.
»Developing products virtually is happening now, it’s not science fiction anymore. Sourcing materials is becoming increasingly expensive or difficult.«
Antti Puisto, Research Team Leader, VTT
ProperTune is a collection of tools that combines multiscale physics-based modelling and AI with a data-driven approach to create microstructurally accurate materials and load in realistic conditions. ProperTune provides a highly in-depth analysis of the customer’s product and models how different environmental elements and stressors affect the product.
Working in a fully digital environment, finding more preferable and better performing alternatives for undesirable ingredients is dramatically faster compared to the traditional trial-and-error methodology. In addition, the durability along with other key performance parameters of the new material can also be verified in the virtual environment.
Bacteria is one of the most exciting prospects for soft materials as they are, essentially, an infinite source of materials. Paper cups have a barrier coating to help keep the liquid from immediately destroying the cup. Usually, this barrier is made of petrochemical polymers that could be replaced with sustainable alternative polymers produced by bacteria. The end result would be paper cups that are infinitely circular.
Virtual material analysis and development holds a lot of promise for the construction industry as well, which uses insulation materials that often end up in landfills at the end of life.
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