A composite material is a material that combines two or more materials with the aim of improving the properties of the material and has clear boundaries including those during molding in the material. Fiber reinforced plastics, which is one of them, is reinforced with aramid, carbon fiber, glass fiber or the like for plastics. Fiber reinforced plastics are attracting attention in various fields due to advantages such as high specific strength / specific rigidity and excellent moldability as compared with metallic materials.
One of the main advantages of the polymeric matrix compounds (formed by two or more components that act in synergy) is that they are materials that offer a high mechanical resistance with respect to their density, in comparison with conventional materials. Thanks to this, composites play with a series of very significant advantages for a wide range of applications. For example, they allow to obtain complex shapes with great precision, they also have an excellent resistance to degradation and are highly resistant to corrosion. Advanced composite materials have been used in the past 50 years in a variety of high-performance applications: military vehicles, luxury yachts, large wind turbine blades, aircraft, sports and leisure equipment such as skis, snowboards and surfboards . They are also beginning to be used more widely in the world of architecture, where they offer significant weight savings and ability to create complex shapes that gives architects greater freedom in design. Precisely, the design with composite materials opens a wide range of possibilities in its application to the construction sector, such as optimizing the performance of the structure through simple changes in some of the constituents of the composite material (types of resin, types and configuration of materials of reinforcement, etc.).
Freedom of design and futuristic constructions
If during the last 100 years the architects have limited themselves to the use of the usual construction materials in their designs (wood, stone, steel, concrete …), nowadays the composite materials are revolutionizing the architecture. Its application in the field of construction has made it possible to progressively replace traditional materials and with them, many of the barriers faced by designers when carrying out projects with a futuristic design have been eliminated. Until now, composites have been more commonly used in secondary structures or large self-supporting structures such as domes. But recently, Some architects and engineers are developing more complex solutions to satisfy the creativity of some designers and their desire to challenge established canons for the design of buildings and unique works. These applications are only possible with composite materials, since the combination of the low weight of these materials with their ability to be molded in very complex forms is used. Among the main advantages offered by composite materials compared to traditional materials we would highlight some:
- High mechanical resistance : Composite materials are very effective in their use as elements that provide high strength. They can be designed to provide specific range of mechanical properties, such as tensile, flexural, impact and compressive strength. In addition, composite parts can be manufactured with reinforcements with a specific orientation that provide additional strength where the design requires it.
- Aesthetics: They provide new aesthetic possibilities thanks to their ability to mold complex, fluid and creative forms, as well as the ability to integrate special surface finishes and a wide variety of effects, including the simulation of traditional materials.
- Corrosion resistance : Composite materials do not rust or corrode. There are a multitude of polymer matrix systems that provide long-term resistance for most temperature environments and chemical environments. Correctly designed composite parts have a long service life and minimal maintenance compared to traditional construction materials.
- Lightness : Composites have a higher specific resistance than most materials used in similar applications. These can offer more strength by weight than most metal alloys.
- Durability : How long do the composites last? There are references of duration of more than fifty years and counting. Polymeric matrix composites are relatively recent materials compared to the materials they often substitute, such as concrete, steel and wood, so their life expectancy has not yet been reached in many of the components in use.
- Design flexibility : Composite materials can be obtained with almost any shape: it can be complex in configuration, large or small, structural, decorative, or a combination of these. Composites free the minds of architects and designers to test new concepts, from prototype to production. Due to this flexibility, individual pieces of composite material can replace sets of complex units that require multiple fasteners when they are manufactured with traditional materials such as wood, steel and aluminum.
- Dimensional stability : FRP composite materials maintain their shape and functionality even under severe mechanical and environmental stresses.
- Dielectric behavior : Polymer matrix composite materials have excellent electrical insulation properties.
- High service temperature : Parts made with the polymer matrix and suitable loads can perform very well in high temperature applications