What is a Fibre Composite
What is a Fibre Composite?
Fibre composites consist of polymers(plastics) reinforced with carbon,glass and/or aramid (Kevlar)fibres.These materials are four to six times stronger than steel and concrete but are only a fraction of the weight.They are also non- corroding,non-magnetic and can be designed to place strength and stiffness where it is needed. The potential whole-of-life cost advantages are thought to be significant,however these will need to be monitored in the future to ensure they can be realised.
Fibre composites were originally developed for the aerospace industry and have found their way into a much wider range of applications including transportation(automotive,railway,boats),sports (squash,tennis,golf,skiing,bicycles),medical science(prosthetic devices,wheelchairs)and more recently the building and construction industries (bridges,structural frames,offshore structures,and architectural products).
The application of fibre composites in the construction industry creates the opportunity for a new and innovative approach to structures that have undergone little change over the past 100 years.The unique mechanical and chemical characteristics of fibre composites combine to challenge the supremacy of conventional materials such as steel,timber and concrete particularly in areas that are weight and/or corrosion sensitive.
Advantages of Fibre Composite Materials
Fibre composites are meeting an increasing demand for construction materials that are strong,economical,easy to assemble and durable.They are often directly competitive on initial installation and less expensive to maintain. The whole-of-life cost is often less than for traditional construction materials.
Fibre composite structures are commonly smaller/ more slender-demonstrating high strength and low weight with excellent design flexibility qualities which blend with their environment.
Environmentally,fibre composites negate the need for further chemical treatment or protection. With the development of bio-polymers future environmental benefits may include manufacturing fibre composites from renewable resources. By way of example,Wagners CFT is supplying power pole cross-arms to Energex(shown in Figure 1),replacing the timber equivalent previously used.The beneficial properties that fibre composites offer in this area are also desirable in bridge members:lightweight, corrosion resistant,inert,easy and fast to install.