CW Blog

Like many people, this week past I’ve been obsessed with NASA’s solar probe. The Parker Solar Probe — named after solar science pioneer Professor Eugene Parker who developed theories on solar wind and the solar magnetic field in the mid-1950s — launched on Aug. 12 and will travel to the corona of the Sun to study the star and solar wind.

The probe will perform in situ measurements and imaging to study the corona. In order to endure the extreme temperatures in this region which reach approximately 2,500°F (1,377°C), the probe utilizes a 4.5-inch thick lightweight reflective shield. This Thermal Protection System (TPS) is made from carbon composite foam sandwiched between two carbon plates and coated with white ceramic paint on the sun-facing surface. The shield was designed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (Laurel, Maryland, US) and built at Carbon-Carbon Advanced Technologies (Kennedale, TX, US).

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My April blog “Continuous fiber thermoplastics are smart for world’s largest appliance manufacturer” discussed the development of a high-end production air conditioner using CFRTP composite materials by supplier Covestro and the world’s largest appliance company Haier. Now Covestro has trademarked these materials as Maezio, which include carbon or glass fibers impregnated with polycarbonate (PC), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or other thermoplastic resins. Covestro produces unidirectional reinforced tapes and sheets at its production site in Markt Bibart, Germany.

Maezio continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) materials are produced by Covestro in Markt Bibart, Germany. SOURCE: Covestro

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It’s long overdue. After nearly 20 years of CW coverage about composites for infrastructure — in bridges, concrete formwork, piping, electrical transmission towers, and more — our government has taken notice of composites for streamlining and ultimately saving money on all aspects of infrastructure projects, thanks in large part to the persistent efforts of the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA). On August 2, ACMA announced that both chambers of Congress have introduced new legislation to encourage research and deployment of innovative construction techniques and materials in transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide. According to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) web page, investing in these new techniques and materials would help to extend the life of critical public works that draw increasingly poor ratings for condition and performance.

The legislative bill, known as the Innovative Materials for America's Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (or IMAGINE), was introduced in the Senate by Whitehouse, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and in the House of Representatives by Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), and David Cicilline (D-R.I.). It is designed to promote the increased use of innovative materials like FRP composites, as well as new manufacturing methods to speed up the deployment and extend the life of infrastructure projects.

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My vision for these “Connecting the Dots” blogs is to show connections that I see during my continuous research. To me, these are visual images that light up like a runway, pointing to a trend forming or a technology moving toward a tipping point. Sometimes it’s just a landscape coming into focus. I make no claims of futurecasting accuracy, only relationships that I see and find intriguing. My hope is that this type of blog will inspire you and stimulate new ideas for composites applications and technology developments.

The first of these blogs is about how generative design is being used to develop lightweight, bionic structures and how composites may take this one step further, to integrate sensing and other functions.

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What’s a great way to learn about new technology? See it in action. At trade shows, live demos on the show floor and presentations in the conferences give you an exclusive look at current and emerging technology and how it’s being used.

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