A Partners in Innovation Project sponsored by the DTI

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Bridge Enclosures report

Project objective:

To collate, interpret, analyse and disseminate recent international research knowledge and development of polymer composite materials in construction to encourage uptake.

Polymer Composites in Construction

About 30% of all polymers produced each year are used in the civil engineering and building industries. Polymers offer many advantages over conventional materials including lightness, resilience to corrosion and ease of processing. They can be combined with fibres to form composites which have enhanced properties, enabling them to be used as structural members and units. Polymer composites can be used in many different forms ranging from structural composites in the construction industry to the high technology composites of the aerospace and space satellite industries.

Polymer composites were first developed during the 1940’s, for military and aerospace applications. Considerable advances have been made since then in the use of this material and applications developed in the construction sector. Load bearing and infill panels have been manufactured using composites. Complete structures have been fabricated where units manufactured from glass-reinforced polyester are connected together to form the complete system in which the shape provides the rigidity. Glass-reinforced plastics have been used in many other applications including pressure pipes, tank liners, and roofs.

In contrast to the design procedures used for the more traditional construction materials, those for polymer composite materials in structural applications require greater development effort and a wider understanding of the material. The material properties of the final component are the result of a design process that considers many factors which are characterised by the anisotropic behaviour of the material and cover the micro-mechanical, elasticity, strength and stability properties. These properties are influenced by manufacturing techniques, environmental exposure and loading histories. Designing with composites is thus an interactive process between the design of the constituent materials used, the design of the composite material and an understanding of the manufacturing technique for the composite component.

In the last decade, polymer composites have found application in the construction sector in areas such as bridge repair, bridge design, mooring cables, structural strengthening and stand-alone components

This project, funded by DTI, was launched in July 2001 with the following key objectives:

  • collate, interpret and analyse international research knowledge of FRP materials in construction from 1990 onwards.
  • repackage the key information into informative and digestible forms, to establish and highlight synergy’s with traditional construction materials for achieving design and cost efficiencies

The principal target audience for this project is individuals involved in application of building materials within the construction industry that have little or no knowledge of composites or are for whatever reason predisposed against them. Dissemination plays a major role within the project and the team will be working closely with NGCC to ensure this is carried out efficiently and effectively. Trend2000 and BRE will lead the project with support from Brookes Stacey Randall, Concrete society, Fibreforce Composites ltd, Tony Gee and Partners, University of Sheffield, and Saint-Gobain Vetrotex. The project will run for 18 months from its start date.