Michelin and partners research nanofibrous materials

Michelin logoFrench tyre maker Michelin, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the University of Strasbourg recently inaugurated the SpinLab associated research laboratory in Strasbourg, with a view to studying the electrospinning process for the optimal production of nanofibrous materials, such as adhesives or filtration membranes. The teams will work together over the course of four years to design an innovative electrospinning platform, with the objective of creating innovative and differentiating fibrous materials for diverse applications in mobility, energy, and the environment.

Manipulating nanofibres during their deposition via a kind of “electrostatic weaving”, such is the goal of the joint research project between the Michelin company and scientists from the CNRS and the University of Strasbourg working at the Institute of Chemistry and Processes for Energy, Environment, and Health (CNRS/University of Strasbourg). To this end, the teams will study the physical phenomena to create materials with a fibrous structure that is organised in 3D instead of being random.

While traditional textile technologies use the action of mechanical forces to form and deposit fibres, the electrospinning process instead uses electrostatic forces: the fibre is formed and then highly stretched and projected at great speed onto a substrate through the action of an intense electric field. Continuous fibres with a diameter 100 to 1,000 times thinner than a strand of hair are produced and assembled in the form of a “mat,” a non-woven textile whose random structure resembles a cotton veil.

This collaboration will have two major focuses:

– the first is to develop an innovative electrospinning platform to study the physical and physico-chemical mechanisms that produce multi-component nanofibrous materials whose morphology and fibrous composition are controlled.

– the second aims to use electrospinning and environmentally-friendly approaches to develop “mats” with specific characteristics targeted for diverse applications. Special emphasis will be placed on two applications: hydrogen and zero-emission mobility, in addition to adhesives.

The research conducted by the SpinLab associated research laboratory could eventually have applications in other fields, such as medicine (biomimetic implants for tissue engineering, wound dressings, etc.), the environment (air filters, liquid filtration membranes, etc.), and energy (fuel cell membranes, supercapacitator electrodes, etc.).

For Michelin, these advances will notably enable it to address two major issues:

1. Structural reinforcement via electrospun mats that allow for slimming down composites, thereby improving functional properties all while using less material.

2. The use of non-woven membranes for their properties of permeability and electrical conductivity. The latter can also be soaked in active agents that provide them with additional functionalities.

The establishment of SpinLab was made possible by support from the Carnot MICA Institute.