PROJECTS OF CFC - FRP COMPOSITES AND HYBRID MATERIALS

In recent years the Constructed Facilities Center has undertaken considerable research in the area of FRP composites and hybrid materials. The CFC is involved in characterization, applications to innovative structures, drafting of design guidelines, and fundamental research.

A composite's constituents are essentially binders, nanofillers and continuous fibers, either glass or carbon. These manufactured composites have a multitude of uses. They can be used for concrete reinforcing, tendons, and prestressing cables or for structural components such as structural shapes, panels, pipes, and gratings.

Composites are excellent construction materials because they are corrosion resistant, fatigue resistant, light weight, and have an electromagnetic transparency. The potential to manufacture durable composites in large volumes at low cost has made them a premier structural material.

Development of new analysis and testing procedures for all-composite structures has been going on for several years at the Center. Beam bending, column buckling, connection and system performance, and material characterization are some of the topics in which significant progress has been made, again in close collaboration with industry, regulatory agencies, and users. We are involved in the development of new optimized shapes and new connection system for bridge decks. Fatigue and environmental degradation studies are also in progress. Use of nanomaterials as resin modifiers is in progress.

In addition, the Center is involved in the development of new hybrid material. A hybrid material is a material, which combines two or more constituent materials to form a new material with properties different from those of its constituents. Hybrids could include wood and composites, concrete and composites, or many other combinations.

As one example of an immediately useful hybrid application, we have been instrumental in the development of FRP reinforcing bars for concrete. FRP reinforced concrete can increase life of bridge decks, marine structures, or other structures exposed to a highly corrosive environment.

A second example is the combination of graphite fiber "cloth" which can be wrapped around beams or other structural components to add strength. When bonded securely to a concrete beam, the graphite wrap had doubled the beam's bending resistance.

Composites and hybrid materials combine the best properties of the base materials to form a material which functions better than the base material. The CFC will continue to search for the best combinations of materials and applications to improve existing constructed facilities.