• The ‘BRAINSTORM’ project involving researchers at WMG, University of Warwick has won gold at the JEC World 2020 Innovation Awards in the category ‘Railway Vehicles and Infrastructure’
  • The project saw partners from Far-UK, Composite Braiding, TDI and WMG create a light-weight recyclable light-rail vehicle frame made of woven braided composites
  • They braided together carbon fibres with a thermoplastic polymer to create composites and produced a series of tubes which together form strong structural vehicle frames

Newswise — The BRAINSTORM project, which saw partners from Far-UK, Composite Braiding, TDI and WMG at the University of Warwick create a woven braided carbon fibre composite frame for a Very-Light Rail (VLR), has won gold at the JEC World 2020 Innovation awards in the Category “Railway Vehicles and Infrastructure.”

The JEC World 2020 Innovation awards is the world’s leading international composites show, the awards ceremony took place virtually, and saw researchers working on the BRAINSTORM project take home gold in the category “Railway Vehicles and Infrastructure.”

The Innovate UK funded project started in 2018, and engineers from Far-UK, TDI, Composite Braiding and WMG, at the University of Warwick set out to make a lightweight VLR vehicle frame, which is braided from carbon fibre composites into a series of tubes. They created their first prototype demonstrator frame in May 2019, which drew attention from the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Business and Industry, Andrew Stephenson.

The frame is unique as it can be easily assembled by adhesive and simple welding, and can be repaired if damaged, and recycled or reused in other structures at its end of life.

Dr Darren Hughes Associate Professor in Materials and Manufacturing at WMG at the University of Warwick explains:

“It is an honour to have won at the JEC World 2020 Innovation awards, we have worked incredibly hard to create an innovative frame offering significant weight-saving that can allow VLR light rail services to operate in a more sustainable way. Reduced mass leads to a lower requirement for power for propulsion and also lowers the stress placed on the track system. This can also open up significant cost savings in light rail systems.”

“The technology also ensures that the vehicle is tough for a long life in service, easily repairable and strong enough to protect the passengers on board.”

Dr Kevin Lindsey of Nottingham based lightweight structural composite components company Far-UK Ltd said:

“To have our achievements acknowledged and awarded is validation of our ongoing research into lightweight structures. The design process that we used allowed the development of the ultralight yet safe structure. We are now ready to take structures such as these into higher volume in our new manufacturing facility.”

Steve Barbour of Derby based specialists in thermoplastic braiding company Composite Braiding Ltd said:

“It is great that the technology we have been developing has helped lead to such a fantastic outcome. Braiding at rates of over a mile a day, we have a highly automated process that is capable of producing high volume, lower cost structural components that are inherently recyclable. It’s fantastic that the potential has been recognised.”

Paul Salkeld of TDI (Transport Design International) based at Stratford-Upon-Avon adds:

“The braiding method can be used with a wide range of materials including carbon, glass, basalt and aramid. We hope this can revolutionise the design of future transport, and are actively involved particularly in the rail sector to produce more economical and environmentally beneficial vehicles.”