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Composites Design


Composite materials are engineered materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties which remain separate and distinct on a macroscopic level within the finished structure.



Materials


Fiber-reinforced polymers or FRPs include wood (comprising cellulose fibers in a lignin and hemicellulose matrix), carbon-fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP, and glass-reinforced plastic or GRP. If classified by matrix then there are thermoplastic composites, short fiber thermoplastics, long fiber thermoplastics or long fiber-reinforced thermoplastics. There are numerous thermoset composites, but advanced systems usually incorporate aramid fibre and carbon fibre in an epoxy resin matrix.



Shape memory polymer composites are high-performance composites, formulated using fiber or fabric reinforcement and shape memory polymer resin as the matrix. Since a shape memory polymer resin is used as the matrix, these composites have the ability to be easily manipulated into various configurations when they are heated above their activation temperatures and will exhibit high strength and stiffness at lower temperatures. They can also be reheated and reshaped repeatedly without losing their material properties. These composites are ideal for applications such as lightweight, rigid, deployable structures; rapid manufacturing; and dynamic reinforcement.



Composites can also use metal fibres reinforcing other metals, as in metal matrix composites or MMC. Magnesium is often used in MMCs because it has similar mechanical properties as epoxy. The benefit of magnesium is that it does not degrade in outer space. Ceramic matrix composites include bone (hydroxyapatite reinforced with collagen fibers), Cermet (ceramic and metal) and concrete. Ceramic matrix composites are built primarily for toughness, not for strength. Organic matrix/ceramic aggregate composites include asphalt concrete, mastic asphalt, mastic roller hybrid, dental composite, syntactic foam and mother of pearl. Chobham armour is a special type of composite armour used in military applications.



Additionally, thermoplastic composite materials can be formulated with specific metal powders resulting in materials with a density range from 2 g/cm³ to 11 g/cm³ (same density as lead). The most common name for this type of material is High Gravity Compound (HGC), although Lead Replacement is also used. These materials can be used in place of traditional materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, brass, bronze, copper, lead, and even tungsten in weighting, balancing (for example, modifying the center of gravity of a tennis racquet), vibration dampening, and radiation shielding applications. High density composites are an economically viable option when certain materials are deemed hazardous and are banned (such as lead) or when secondary operations costs (such as machining, finishing, or coating) are a factor.



Engineered wood includes a wide variety of different products such as plywood, oriented strand board, wood plastic composite (recycled wood fiber in polyethylene matrix), Pykrete (sawdust in ice matrix), Plastic-impregnated or laminated paper or textiles, Arborite, Formica (plastic) and Micarta. Other engineered laminate composites, such as Mallite, use a central core of end grain balsa wood, bonded to surface skins of light alloy or GRP. These generate low-weight, high rigidity materials.



Products


Composite materials have gained popularity (despite their generally high cost) in high-performance products that need to be lightweight, yet strong enough to take harsh loading conditions such as aerospace components (tails, wings, fuselages, propellers), boat and scull hulls, bicycle frames and racing car bodies. Other uses include fishing rods, storage tanks, and baseball bats. The new Boeing 787 structure including the wings and fuselage is composed largely of composites. Composite materials are also becoming more common in the realm of orthopedic surgery.



Carbon composite is a key material in today's launch vehicles and spacecraft. It is widely used in solar panel substrates, antenna reflectors and yokes of spacecraft. It is also used in payload adapters, inter-stage structures and heat shields of launch vehicles.



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