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AE590 Seminar: Frontal polymerization: A faster and energy-efficient way to manufacture thermoset composites

Event Type
Department of Aerospace Engineering
CIF 2035
Oct 25, 2021   4:00 - 5:00 pm  
Philippe H. Geubelle, Bliss Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology
Courtney McLearin

Current manufacturing techniques of thermoset-matrix fiber-reinforced composites rely primarily on the bulk polymerization of the resin. In addition to the substantial capital investments associated with the need for autoclaves, ovens, or heated molds, the long and complex heat and pressure cycles involved in the thermal curing process result in a time-consuming and energy-intensive manufacturing process. Frontal Polymerization (FP), which involves a polymerization wave that propagates through a monomer to convert it to polymer, has been recently demonstrated by the Autonomous Materials Systems research group at the University of Illinois (Robertson et al., Nature, 2018) as an alternative approach to eliminate the need for autoclaves and make the process substantially (by orders of magnitude) faster and more energy efficient.

In this talk, I will discuss recent results obtained in the experimental, theoretical. and computational investigation of FP-based manufacturing of composites made of carbon or glass fibers embedded in a dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) matrix. I will demonstrate how FP-based manufacturing leads to high-performance and high-quality composite materials while achieving substantial savings in both time and energy compared to oven-based approaches. I will also summarize recent advances in the development of a FP-based 3D printing process for polymers and composites and discuss current efforts in achieving FP-driven pattern formation.


Robertson, I. D., Yourdkhani, M., Centellas, P. J., Aw, J. E., Ivanoff, D. G., Goli, E., Lloyd, E. M., Dean, L. M., Sottos, N. R., Geubelle, P. H., Moore, J. S., and White, S. R. (2018) “Rapid energy-efficient manufacturing of polymers and composites via frontal polymerization.” Nature, 557, 223-227.



Originally from Belgium, Philippe Geubelle got his B.Sc. in mechanical engineering at the Catholic University of Louvain in 1988, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology in 1989 and 1993, respectively. After a year as Postdoctoral Research Associate at Harvard, he joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in January 1995, where he is currently Bliss Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, with joint appointments in Mechanical Science and Engineering and at the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. He served as the Head of the AE Department from 2011 to 2018 and was appointed as the Executive Associate Dean of the Grainger College of Engineering in January 2019. His research interests pertain to the theoretical and numerical treatment of complex problems in solid mechanics and materials, and, in particular, composite manufacturing, multiscale analysis and design of materials, fracture mechanics, and biomimetic multifunctional materials.

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