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Chapter: Civil - Construction Materials: Modern Materials

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Composite materials and Types of Composites

Composite materials (also called composition materials or shortened to composites) are materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties, that when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components.

Composite materials

 

Composite materials (also called composition materials or shortened to composites) are materials made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties, that when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components. The individual components remain separate and distinct within the finished structure. The new material may be preferred for many reasons: common examples include materials which are stronger, lighter or less expensive when compared to traditional materials.

 

Typical engineered composite materials include:

 

Composite building materials such as cements, concrete

        Reinforced plastics such as fiber-reinforced polymer

        Metal Composites

        Ceramic Composites (composite ceramic and metal matrices)

 

Composite materials are generally used for buildings, bridges and structures such as boat hulls, swimming pool panels, race car bodies, shower stalls, bathtubs, storage tanks, imitation granite and cultured marble sinks and counter tops. The most advanced examples perform routinely on spacecraft in demanding environments.

 

Types of Composites

 

        Composite materials are usually classified by the type of reinforcement they use. This reinforcement is embedded into a matrix that holds it together. The reinforcement is used to strengthen the composite. For example, in a mud brick, the matrix is the mud and the reinforcement is the straw. Common composite types include random-fiber or short-fiber reinforcement, continuous-fiber or long-fiber reinforcement, particulate reinforcement, flake reinforcement, and filler reinforcement.

 

Mud Building Bricks

 

        Mud building bricks are examples of a composite material invented by ancient humans. A brick formed only with mud is sturdy and resistant to compression, but it has little flexibility, and it can break if bent. Straw has excellent tensile strength, meaning that it resists stretching. By combining both straw with mud, ancient humans were able to create composite bricks that could remain flexible while supporting weight and resisting compression.

 

Concrete and Reinforced Concrete

 

        Concrete is a composite material made of cement, sand, stones and water. A chemical reaction that occurs when you combine these materials makes concrete stronger than any one of its components. Concrete is commonly used in building and road construction. When you add reinforced steel rods to the concrete, you create another composite with greater strength and flexibility called reinforced concrete.

 

Fiberglass

 

        Fiberglass is made of tiny glass shards held together by resin and other components. In the automotive industry, fiberglass is important for making body kits. The body shell for a car is made up of different layers of fiberglass, such as a gel-coat layer, tissue layer, matting and cloth. The final product is a complete, waterproof, lightweight and strong body kit. Fiberglass can also be a less expensive alternative to other materials.

Natural Composites

 

        Composites can be easily found in nature. Wood is an example of a composite because cellulose fibers are held together by a substance called lignin. These fibers can be found in cotton and thread, but it's the bonding power of lignin in wood that makes it much tougher. Certain types of large rocks can also be regarded as natural composites when they are composed of a variety of smaller rocks and minerals

 

 

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