11. September 2017 | Indutech/Filtech

Polymer optical fibers and wonder material

Erneut VDMA-Auszeichungen für Absolventen des ITA
The awardees with Peter D. Dornier (Lindauer Dornier) und colleagues , left to right: Dr Thorsten Anders, Benjamin Weise, Gesine Köppe, Pavan Manvi (all ITA), Peter Dornier (Lindauer Dornier), Lukas Völkel, Karsten Neuwerk, Dr Yves-Simon Gloy (all ITA)
Source: VDMA
Karsten Neuwerk and Lukas Völkel from the Institut für Textiltechnik (ITA) of RWTH Aachen University were recognised for their outstanding theses in the frame of Techtextil 2017. Both graduates were awarded with creativity prizes for their development of optical fibers on the basis of renewable polymer-materials (Karsten Neuwerk) and the development of textile energy storage devices made out of graphene-modified polyamide fibers, respectively (Lukas Völkel). The awards are endowed with a scholarship, worth 250 euros per month. Peter D. Dornier, chairman of the The Walter Reiners Foundation of the VDMA Textile Machinery and chairman of the Lindauer DORNIER Board of Management, honoured the young engineers at Techtextil 2017 in Frankfurt am Main.

Polymer optical fibers – a potential alternative

PhD candidate Pavan Kumar Manvi, who supervised Karsten Neuwerk at the ITA, explains: “Polymer optical fibers are a potential alternative to glass fibers because of comparatively lower weight and higher flexibility. Furthermore, they can be produced economically and applied almost universally for short transmission distances. For the first time, we were able to develop elastic polymer optical fibers made out of carbon dioxide based polymer. The elastic nature of newly developed polymer optical fibers allows their application in new fields which could not be covered previously by the glass optical fibers due to their insufficient elasticity. One of the new application fields for instance is the automotive industry, where the frame of the dashboard and other essential components in the car can be made out of polymer optical fibers. This enhances security, as important features of the car can be highlighted; and improves aesthetic value of car interior by creating new design elements. Another possible application is so called “sollektors”, which can transmit sunlight into dark rooms. Because of elastic nature of newly developed polymer optical fibers, it is possible to transmit sunlight into all kinds of rooms. Yet another area of application  is luminescent textiles, which can be used for special effects on festive garments for instance. A key advantage of these fibers is that we contribute to the improvement of the environmental balance because a greenhouse gas namely carbon dioxide (CO₂) is chemically bound in the polymer and hence consumed during polymer production.

Graphene – „wonder material of the 21th century“
Graphene, the one-atom-thick allotrope of graphite, is seen as the “wonder material of the 21th century” due to its excellent mechanical and electrical properties. Possible fields of applications are novel, high electronics technologies, such as terahertz electronics and transparent plastic displays, as well as electrical charge storage systems, sensor technologies and many more. Additionally, graphene may be the material of choice for the realisation of a space elevator. However, the limited commercial availability is problematic for the material’s transfer towards industrial applications. Besides being used for various electronic technologies, graphene is interesting for textile applications. Electric conducive fibers offer the potential for use in smart textiles and textile charge storage units with graphene-modified fibers as electrode material for instance. PhD candidate Benjamin Weise, who supervises Lukas Völkel at the ITA was very satisfied with Völkel’s excellent performance: “For the first time, we’ve introduced graphene into a polymer material and have developed a textile structure on a pilot scale. This gives a great boost for transfer from lab to industry.”

The Walter Reiners Foundation rewards students with a scholarship or a lump sum, respectively, for their developments of particularly creative and promising textile innovations. Repeatedly, some of the awardees are part of the ITA. After receiving their awards, the young honourees were exited, stating: „We are happy to be awarded and we hopefully can contribute to a more sustainable, better world beyond metals with our ideas. However, there is no reason to be complacent; we’ve just taken the first step. Now it’s time to further develop these technologies.” Additional awards were received by students of Chemnitz University of Technology and Technische Universität Dresden.

edited by Petra Gottwald

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