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What are Composite Materials?

Builders often choose composite materials such as this composite brick to save money, or for ecological reasons.
The radar absorbent surfaces of the Lockheed Martin F-22 are believed to be made from composite materials.
The hulls of small to medium sized boats are routinely made of fiberglass.
Gravel may be used as a composite material.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
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Composite materials for construction, engineering, and other similar applications are formed by combining two or more materials in such a way that the constituents are still distinguishable and not fully blended. One example is concrete, which uses cement as a binding material in combination with aggregate, like gravel, as a reinforcement. In many cases, concrete uses rebar as a second reinforcement, making it a three-phase composite, because of the three elements involved.

This type of material takes advantage of the different strengths and abilities of its different elements. In the case of mud and straw bricks, for example, mud is an excellent binding material, but it cannot stand up to compression and force well. Straw, on the other hand, is well able to withstand compression without crumbling or breaking, and so it serves to reinforce the binding action of the mud. Humans have been creating composite materials to build stronger and lighter objects for thousands of years.

The majority of composite materials use two constituents: a binder or matrix and a reinforcement. The reinforcement is stronger and stiffer, forming a sort of backbone, while the matrix keeps the reinforcement in a set place. The binder also protects the reinforcement, which may be brittle or breakable, as in the case of the long glass fibers used in conjunction with plastics to make fiberglass. Generally, composites have excellent compressibility combined with good tensile strength, making them versatile in a wide range of situations.

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Engineers building anything, from a patio to an airplane, look at the unique stresses that their construction will undergo. Extreme changes in temperature, external forces, and water or chemical erosion are all accounted for in an assessment of needs. When building an aircraft, for example, engineers need lightweight, strong material that can insulate and protect passengers while surfacing the aircraft. An aircraft made of pure metal could fail catastrophically if a small crack appeared in the skin of the airplane. On the other hand, one integrating reinforced materials such as fiberglass, graphite, and other hybrids will be stronger and less likely to break up at stress points in situations involving turbulence.

Many composites are made in layers or plies, with a woven fiber reinforcement sandwiched between layers of plastic or another similar binder. These materials have the advantage of being very moldable, as in the hull of a fiberglass boat. Composites have revolutionized a number of industries, especially the aviation industry, in which the development of higher quality materials allows companies to build bigger and better aircraft.

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Discuss this Article

anon304997
Post 22

What are the uses of composite materials in the engineering?

anon294457
Post 21

What is a layered material and how is it different from composite?

peteclam
Post 20

How do composite toe safety shoes compare to steel toe safety shoes?

anon136562
Post 19

Please tell me any projects on the composite materials.

anon113794
Post 18

what are different applications of composite materials?

anon101594
Post 17

Are you able to replace steel bumpers in an automobile with a composite one and is it an advantage and what role does it play?

anon80352
Post 14

what are the main design aspects?

anon63060
Post 13

Any recycle composite material available or not?

anon59244
Post 12

Alternative material for NFTC Natural Fiber Thermoset Composite. It is used in railway coach roofs.

anon58067
Post 11

what are the uses of composite materials in the engineering industry?

anon57654
Post 9

i want to know more examples of recycled composite materials.

anon57623
Post 8

future of composite materials?

anon53524
Post 7

i want know any complete project on the composite material.

anon50474
Post 6

Alloy always consists of two metals and one of them should lose its identity and dissolve in the other. But in composites, which is also the combination of two materials, neither substance will lose its identity (no change in atomic structure). -nani

anon46921
Post 5

i want to build a prototype of an automobile made of composites.

anon38550
Post 4

I want know any projects on the composite materials

anon37244
Post 3

please tell me any projects on the composite materials

sadeequkum
Post 2

is composite materials combination of metals and non metals? can an alloy be called a composite material?

anon3001
Post 1

the uses of composite materials in engineering industry?

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