2010 review: High-Performance Fibers Conference

CompositesWorld’s annual gathering of advanced fibers experts considers a large slate of topics, ranging from export control reform to “smart” microwires.
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Beautiful Charleston, S.C., was the setting once again for CompositesWorld’s High-Performance Fibers 2010 conference, held Nov. 9-10, 2010, at the Doubletree Guest Suites in the city’s historic downtown district. As always, the event attracted a solid slate of expert speakers from the fiber manufacturing and converting industries, as well as some new participants who spoke about emerging research and markets.

The event began with a supplemental seminar titled “High-Performance Fibers for Military Composite Applications,” presented by Joseph Dietzel and Ahmad Abu-Obaid, associate researchers at the University of Delaware, Center for Composite Materials (CCM, Newark, Del.). The pair described the chemical and microscale properties of fibers and stressed that subtle changes in the smallest molecular units that make up a fiber can affect macro-scale performance. Dietzel and Abu-Obaid explained their considerable research into the effects of yarn twist, gauge length and environmental aging on organic fiber properties and how fiber variability can affect ballistic performance. One interesting area under development at CCM is the electrospinning of nanofibers (e.g., nylon) for producing lightweight, impact-resistant materials, including transparent composites for the U.S. Army.

The conference sessions convened at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday with a presentation by conference co-chair Dana Granville, a materials engineer in the Materials Manufacturing Technology Branch of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (Natick, Mass.). Granville outlined the reasons composites are essential for military applications. Conference co-chair Patrick Owens, global marketing manager at DuPont Protection Solutions (Richmond, Va.), then introduced the session’s first speaker, Ruth Stephens, who is the managing director of safety and technical products at the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI, Roseville, Minn.). Stephens’ topic was potential markets for technical fibers and textiles, and she encouraged attendees to collaborate and “dream” of new ways to leverage fiber/fabric knowledge for improved applications.

After a discussion of the status of export control reforms that relate to domestic high-performance fiber manufacturers led by Alex Lopes, director of nonproliferation and treaty compliance at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Jeffrey Hanks of DuPont described the use of his company’s trademarked Kevlar fiber in hybrid armor designs, particularly helmets. Hanks pointed out that to provide adequate head protection in a helmet, “what you need on the front side is different from what is needed on the back side.” He recommended that a combination of innovative fibers, structures, modeling tools and a systems approach is needed to truly “lighten the load” for soldiers.

Rhett Cheatham, application manager, life protection at DSM Dyneema (Stanley, N.C.), presented information about his company’s ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene fibers and some current applications along with new material forms, including Dyneema X, a unidirectional product with a high areal density. Audience interest was high during William Stringfellow’s presentation in which he described nanotechnology-enhanced composite armor concepts from his company, NanoRidge (Houston, Texas). NanoRidge is purchasing nanomaterials from several sources, functionalizing them and using them not only in armor, but also in other select applications, including structural aerospace composites, electrically conductive plastics and oil field materials. David Hartman of Owens Corning Composite Solutions Business (Toledo, Ohio) was the next speaker. He described his company’s collaboration with Lockheed Martin Applied NanoStructured Solutions (ANS, Baltimore, Md.). The two companies are working together to develop a fast, readily usable manufacturing method for growing carbon nanotubes directly on reinforcing fabrics and fibers. The carbon-enhanced reinforcements (CERs) reportedly are as electrically and thermally conductive as some metals. Likely CER applications include lightning strike protection and EMI shielding.

Aaron Tomich of T.E.A.M. Inc. (Woonsocket, R.I.) delivered an interesting paper about his company’s ability to produce 3-D near-net shaped structures with a Jacquard weaving loom. He presented cost-vs.-weight data for a variety of fibers and revealed some design strategies that maximize the value of a 3-D weave via hybridizing while achieving fiber volumes nearly as high as those possible with hand layup.

Despite the current preference for noncrimp fibers in tensile-strength-critical applications, crimp in a ballistic fabric can be good, said Paul Cavallaro of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (Newport, R.I.). He and collaborator Ali Sadegh of The City College of New York, the Warfare Center, have gathered extensive test data of Crimp-Imbalanced Protective (CRIMP) fabrics to determine how they behave in ballistic events. Iain Montgomery, a new business development manager at AGY Holding Corp. (Aiken, S.C.), described his company’s high-strength glass products for wind and how blade designs can be fine-tuned for lower cost by strategically placing AGY glass where needed in spar regions and using lower-modulus materials in the rest of the blade. In the following presentation, Owens Corning advanced engineer Annabeth Law, described her company’s products for wind applications and ballistics.

A new “smart” microwire filament product, the iCon fiber, was described by Gerry Mauretti, president of EY Technologies (Fall River, Mass.). The fiber’s construction and properties are examined in this issue, in a new column, “From the Podium." See "New filamewnt to make composites 'smart,'" under "Editor's Picks," at top right).

The event wrapped up with four additional presentations: Mukerrem Cakmak of the University of Akron (Akron, Ohio) discussed how to produce thin sheets of transparent, flexible and electrically conductive fibers. Patrick Coffey of Kuraray America Inc. – Vectran Div. (Fort Mill, S.C.) brought attendees up to speed on the advantages and applications for Vectran liquid crystal polymer fibers. The use of fiber-optic sensors in composite geotextiles was discussed by Wilson Harvie of TenCate Geosynthetics North America (Pendergrass, Ga.). T.G. Ravindran, sales and marketing manager at Saint-Gobain Quartz USA (Hiram, Ohio), discussed Quartzel high-performance silica fibers.

HPF 2010 conference proceedings are available from CompositesWorld’s conference managers; visit www.compositesworld.com/conferences.

The HPF conference will return to Charleston, S.C., on Nov. 9-10, 2011, at a different venue: Embassy Suites Charleston – Historic Charleston, 337 Meeting St.