Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)


The institution

KU Leuven  is dedicated to education and research in nearly all fields. Its fifteen faculties offer education, while research activities are organized by the departments and research groups.

These faculties and departments, in turn, are clustered into three groups: Humanities and Social Sciences, Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), and Biomedical Sciences. Each of these groups has a doctoral school for its doctoral training programmes. KU Leuven has fifteen campuses, spread across 11 cities in Flanders and has about 60,000 students.


The participating research groups

The Composite Materials Group (CMG)  of the Department of Materials Engineering (MTM) of KU Leuven has more than 30 years of experience in the area of polymer composite materials in a variety of topics. The group has an extensive infrastructure for the processing and characterization of composite materials. The group has participated in numerous European, Flemish and bilateral research projects and has strong positions in different areas such as:

  1. Textile composites
  2. Natural fibre and bio-composites
  3. Innovative polymers and composites with micro- and nano-reinforcements
  4. Novel sandwich materials
  5. Innovative foam materials, e.g. the development of anisotropic foams for bicycle helmets and shape-memory foams.
  6. Extrusion and injection moulding

The CMG group has been the centre of expertise concerning polymer composite materials since three decades and has been working on bio-based composites for more than 15 years. In recent years the CMG group have conducted and are still conducting about 10 PhD studies in the area of natural fibre composites. Currently, about 10 co-workers focus on this area. In total the CMG group counts more than 40 research members.

The research group Sustainability Assessments of Material Life Cycles (SAM) at the Department of Materials Engineering now exists for about 10 years. It is specialised in conducting sustainability assessments of material flows and life cycles and particularly in LCA studies. Various PhD studies have been conducted and support in the form of conducting LCA studies has been given to various projects, like two large Flemish projects to develop gluten bio-polymers and projects to develop flax fibre reinforced composites. The group is also leading the Flemish policy research centre Sustainable Materials Management, and also represents the KU Leuven in the EIT KIC Raw Materials.

Both participating research groups are part of the Department of Materials Engineering (MTM)  and member of the Leuven Materials Research Centre (MRC) and as such have access to the extensive infrastructure and expertise of about 20 other groups at KU Leuven working on materials science, e.g. to the expertise in rheology in the Chemical Engineering Department, expertise in vibration and damping and machining of materials in the Mechanical Engineering Department and expertise in acoustics in the Physics Department.


Main tasks in SSUCHY

Within  the SSUCHY project, KU Leuven is leading for WP7 (Durability) and WP10 (LCA) and it also participates in various other WPs.


Significant infrastructure and equipment

For the processing of composites, an extensive infrastructure is available including hot presses, an autoclave, equipment for resin injection, two thermoforming installations (one at industrial scale), a drumwinder and a lab-scale hot melt impregnation line. There is also ready access to the equipment of the Sirris Leuven-Gent Composites Application Lab which is located on campus.

For the testing and characterisation of composite materials an extensive infrastructure is present, including a range of mechanical testing machines (including a range of fatigue machines and impact equipment, with climate control), electron microscopes (including TEM, FIB-SEM, ESEM) and physical characterisation equipment (DMA, DSC, TGA, etc).

For the study of fibre-matrix adhesion equipment is available for tensiometry, contact angle measurements and micromechanical testing and there is ready access to XPS.

Climate chambers, conditioned rooms and mini tensile testing machines are available for the study of natural fibres, as well as an in-house built UV exposure cabinet.

Capabilities in Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) include a range of microfocus CT machines, acoustic scanning equipment, sensor technology and opto-acoustic technology.

Design capabilities for composites; include in-house Wisetex software for textile composites and various finite element packages for simulation of mechanical properties and processing related aspects.

Via the cross-campus Materials Research Centre (MRC) ready access is available to a host of equipment in other Departments, including vibration and damping equipment in the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Acoustics lab in the Department of Physics.

Various software for MFA, LCA and economic modelling (for instance GAMS). KU Leuven has well-equipped laboratories for materials and substances characterisation.


PhD and Post-docs involved in SSUCHY:

Gilles KOOLEN, PhD student (gilles.koolen@kuleuven.be)

Maria Morissa LU, PhD student (mariamorissa.lu@kuleuven.be)

Natalia CRESPO MENDES, Post-doc (natalia.crespomendes@kuleuven.be)

Carlos FUENTES, Post-doc (carlos.fuentes@mtm.kuleuven.be)


Find out more