Environmental issues and industry

Prof. Jérôme Faver­geon, Direc­tor of UTC’s Rober­val lab­o­ra­to­ry since 2015, describes the research projects linked to envi­ron­men­tal issues.

80% of Rober­val’s activ­i­ties are car­ried out in col­lab­o­ra­tion with indus­try, and there are some links here that go back a long way. “With­in the lab­o­ra­to­ry, we place a long­stand­ing focus on mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing. We have been work­ing for over 20 years to light­en struc­tures, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the trans­port equip­ment, aero­nau­tics and auto­mo­tive sec­tors, viz., struc­tures do not com­pro­mise safe­ty, but do reduce fuel con­sump­tion over the same dis­tance, and so cut CO2 emis­sions con­sid­er­ably. This is excel­lent for the envi­ron­ment per se, even if, his­tor­i­cal­ly, it was not the reduc­tion in CO2 emis­sions that moti­vat­ed man­u­fac­tur­ers but rather the reduc­tion in fuel costs, a strong incen­tive for con­sumers. Of course, things have changed since then, and the envi­ron­men­tal issue has become cru­cial for com­pa­nies,” under­lines Jérôme Favergeon.


What are Fusemé­tal’s areas of research? “We have two main areas of research. The first is addi­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques, con­sid­ered to be among the lead­ing tech­nolo­gies for reduc­ing the eco­log­i­cal foot­print of man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es. The sec­ond con­cerns the assem­bly of high yield strength sheet met­al. For many years now, Arcelor­Mit­tal has been devel­op­ing high-strength sheet met­al for vehi­cle struc­tures, main­ly for the auto­mo­tive sec­tor. This per­for­mance makes it pos­si­ble to slim down var­i­ous com­po­nents. On the oth­er hand, these new­gen­er­a­tion steels are more com­pli­cat­ed to assem­ble. If we want to opti­mise weight, we need to be able to assem­ble dif­fer­ent steels, putting the right steel in the right place, for exam­ple. Today, this rep­re­sents a kind of tech­no­log­i­cal bot­tle­neck in terms of appli­ca­tions, one that needs to be resolved and to which we are pro­vid­ing an aca­d­e­m­ic per­spec­tive through this joint lab­o­ra­to­ry. It’s also worth not­ing that these steels come from recy­cling chan­nels”, explains Jérôme Favergeon.

Recycling composite materials

While the col­lab­o­ra­tion with Arcelor­Mit­tal goes back a long way, there is a an equal­ly strong with Safran in the aero­space sec­tor. “The work car­ried out by the Rober­val Lab with Safran main­ly con­cerns com­pos­ite mate­ri­als, where new per­for­mance para­me­ters can replace cer­tain met­al alloys, mak­ing struc­tures lighter and there­by reduc­ing air­craft kerosene con­sump­tion. This also is good for the envi­ron­ment. How­ev­er, a major issue is the recy­cling of these mate­ri­als, since the mate­r­i­al itself is mixed with the struc­ture being man­u­fac­tured. As a result, we need to move away from tra­di­tion­al recy­cling meth­ods, such as those we use for met­al alloys. This should be a key sub­ject of future projects”, says Jérôme Favergeon.

Oth­er areas of research, in addi­tion to projects car­ried out in col­lab­o­ra­tion with mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers, include:

Asian hornet detection

“We have some rather atyp­i­cal projects, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the ‘acoustics and vibra­tions’ team. The team is work­ing on the devel­op­ment of acoustic anten­nae that would make it pos­si­ble to recog­nise Asian hor­nets, which, as its full name (Ves­pa veluti­na), also known as the yel­low-legged hor­net sug­gests, comes from else­where and harms local ecosys­tems, par­tic­u­lar­ly bees. The tech­no­log­i­cal idea is to install these lis­ten­ing sys­tems on drones so as to detect the hor­nets more eas­i­ly, and pos­si­bly track their move­ments in order to find their nests and destroy them,” he says.

Ongo­ing projects are not stop­ping the Rober­val Lab research teams from look­ing to the future. They are work­ing on their roadmaps and are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in two major areas: the reuse of mate­ri­als and eco-design.

Reusing materials

In this field, we are wit­ness­ing the devel­op­ment of con­cepts, skills and knowl­edge, as well as tools. How­ev­er, these tools remain incom­plete. “Today, we can cer­tain­ly find soft­ware to help with the eco-design of prod­ucts, but it essen­tial­ly inte­grates issues relat­ing to the upstream stages of the prod­uct — which mate­ri­als, ores or recy­cled mate­ri­als, what type of assem­bly? – but also down­stream — recy­cling or not, reclaim­ing or not — each stage hav­ing a CO2 emis­sion impact. I can there­fore cal­cu­late the car­bon foot­print of the fin­ished prod­uct by adding up the car­bon foot­print of each stage. How­ev­er, they have one lim­i­ta­tion: they don’t look at what hap­pens in between, i.e.; the pro­duc­t’s lifes­pan. We believe that the real impact of a prod­uct is not just its design, man­u­fac­ture and recy­cling, but also what hap­pens dur­ing the entire peri­od of use. Let’s take two prod­ucts with the same func­tions but dif­fer­ent car­bon foot­prints. If one has a greater impact upstream and down­stream but lasts 30 years while the oth­er lasts 10 years, which one should we choose? Today, we don’t know how to car­ry out this over­all assess­ment using exist­ing tools. Devel­op­ing new tools that can inte­grate the entire life cycle from the design stage is there­fore a major chal­lenge, par­tic­u­lar­ly for man­u­fac­tur­ers,” he concludes.

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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