Composite Material Trends
5 October 2010
The world of composite materials is going through one of its most fertile periods of innovation and this has implications for those companies needing to supply processing solutions to these sophisticated materials. The JEA Asia Show in Singapore which opens on 12th October is one of the major showplaces for these materials.
Some of the coming highlights at the show include lightweight composites for commercial vehicles. The requirements of these materials are stability, low weight and durability to meet the industry’s demands of energy-efficiency and sustainable performance. One company, Lamilux, has developed a fibre-reinforced composite LamiluxPlan High Impact. This is a facing material which is primarily intended to be used as a surface for sandwich elements for sidewall and roof structures.
LamiluxPlan High Impact according to its developers combines the most compelling product advantages of three major construction materials in commercial vehicle design. It has the impact resistance and surface appearance of polished metal facings such as aluminium, while possessing the low thermal conductivity and elastic deformability of thermoplastic materials. It also offers the high resistance to UV, weathering and corrosion and the rigidity, stability and low specific mass per unit area of thermosetting polymers. Furthermore, it compensates for the disadvantages of other materials, such as the susceptibility of metals to corrosion and the poor paintability of thermoplastics.
Also for automotive applications is a plant-derived material called Kenaf or more correctly
Kenaf (Hibiscus Cannabinus, L.). This is an annual fibre crop that can grow to a height of up to 3-4 metres in only 120 days. The stem contains relatively long fibres which are strong and lightweight. Kenaf has become a much-sought-after alternative in the composites industry as replacement for polymer-based materials and glass fibres. It is an environment-friendly plant with high carbon-dioxide sequestration capacity. The Malaysian Government is supporting the development of kenaf with hopes to turn it into the next major industrial crop for Malaysia and to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. Plus it is safe material to work with when compared to glass fibres, for example
The company, Harusmas Agro Sdn. Bhd., with its partner Universiti Malaysia Sabah, has developed kenaf mats replacing glass-fibre mats for exterior automotive parts such as bumpers, fenders and spoilers. Kenaf fibre has a density of 1.5 g/cm3, compared to 2.55 g/cm3 for glass fibre. Kenaf fibre lightness will increase the fuel efficiency of cars, thus reducing their carbon emission. Automotive parts produced using kenaf are carbon-neutral products.
At the moment, research is continuting with the aim of increasing the strength and durability of the fibres through weaving techniques. Bio-resins from the kenaf plant and recycling technology are also being developed. This project is undertaken by Harusmas Agro Sdn. Bhd., the Fibre Bio-Composite Development Centre, FIDEC under the Malaysian Timber Industry Board, and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
The company developing commercial products based on this plant hope that it will be adopted as an eco-friendly materials in the small and medium automotive customization and modification industry.Harusmas has already launched some products onto the local market and also produces cut-to-length kenaf fibres and core stem to various specifications. The product gained global recognition when it was nominated for an award at the 2010 JEC Composites Innovation Awards Competition in Paris, France, earlier this year.
A new class of carbon-based nanomaterials with interesting applications are available from FutureCarbon, a leading German company. FutureCarbon specializes in the development and manufacture of carbon nanomaterials and their refinement to create what are called carbon supercomposites, primary products for further industrial processing.
The company says that is carbon supercomposites are combinations of materials that unfold the special characteristics of carbon nanomaterials in the macroscopic world of real applications. Three different products are being demonstrated in Singapore – CarboShield, CarboGran and Carbo e-Therm.
CarboShield is a coating for application to surfaces that will effectively guard rooms/spaces or technical installations against electromagnetic radiation. The company says that unlikeconventional shielding materials that reflect, CarboShield absorbs electromagnetic radiation, i.e. the radiation enters into the material and not backscattered and is consequently extinguished. Just a very thin, single coating of CarboShield is highly effective over a very wide frequency range. The attenuation or extinction properties called for can beset quite arbitrarily through the layer structure
CarboGran is a redispersing and dustfree granulate of carbon nanoparticles, typically used as an additive to create specific electric conductivity in materials. Because of itsfree flowing properties, CarboGran is easily dosed, and electric material propertiesare very easily matched to the particular requirements. Added to varnishes,resinous systems, adhesives, mortar and the like or as a coating, CarboGranserves for ATEX-conformant electrostatic discharge.
The final product from Carbo e-Therm is a high-efficiency, electrically heated coating for low voltage, suitable for use in the automobile industry, aerospace, the construction industry, mechanical and plant engineering. The heated coating can be applied to very different surfaces and materials like plastics, metals, building materials, etc. Carbo e-Therm is used to implement innovative heating systems in automobiles for example, to generate the necessary process heat for industrial foodstuff production, to install wall and floor heating in buildings, or to prevent the formation of condensation in electric installations.