Carbon fibre composites (CFC) have been increasingly replacing metals in products requiring lightweight features. However, due to the traditional manufacturing process and poor thermal conductivity, the use of CFC has been limited to structural applications. For example, the casings for batteries, electrical motors, and power electronics are typically manufactured entirely in aluminium because they require efficient heat dissipation. Using pure aluminium results in a heavier and less cost-effective solution than using pure CFC.
The vision of the EU-funded MULTHEM project is to use the different benefits from metals and CFC materials to develop and validate new reliable additively manufactured processes and new metal-polymer multi-materials with structural and cooling features with a more cost-effective approach than traditional methods.
The 26th Climate Change Conference has highlighted the urgent need to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions to limit global warming. The transport sector accounts for approx. 16% of the global carbon emissions and has identified fleet electrification as the primary route to achieving climate neutrality. However, the main challenges are the current weight of components and the cost of new systems to ensure efficiency and long-term sustainability. As a result, the industry has recognised the need for transformative technologies and production methods to develop lighter, more efficient, and cost-effective solutions to enable this transition and achieve climate neutrality.
With their outstanding mechanical strength, Carbon Fibre Composites (CFC) have been increasingly used to replace metals in products requiring lightweight features, such as aircraft or high-performance vehicles. However, due to the traditional manufacturing process and poor thermal conductivity, the use of CFC has been limited to structural applications. For example, batteries, electrical motors, and power electronics, where power losses need to be efficiently dissipated, typically require separate heat exchangers, resulting in heavier and less cost-effective solutions that still utilize bulky designs and heavy materials.
The vision of MULTHEM is to develop a reliable and validated Additively Manufactured (AM) CFC process with enhanced thermal conductivity with different material combinations and nanotechnology. This innovative approach will allow the development of components, such as battery and motor housings with dual functionality comprising structural and cooling features and with a more cost-effective approach than traditional methods. This solution will enhance the product performance, first by the weight reduction achieved by designs that only AM enables, and second, by using CFC-metal structures with enhanced thermal conductivity strategies, lighter and stronger than aluminium or steel.