What are composite materials and how are they used?

Composites are materials that are formed when two or more different materials are combined together. When there are two main components, one is known as the matrix or binder, and the other as the reinforcement.

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The component materials in composites often have quite different properties which combine and give the composite its own unique properties. When a composite is made, the component materials don’t blend into each other or dissolve but remain distinct.

Examples of composites

Composites can be found in nature. Perhaps the most common natural composite is wood, which is made from long cellulose fibres and lignin.

Other common composite materials include concrete (water, aggregate, and cement), corrugated cardboard (liner board, corrugated fluted paper, and glue), plywood (wood fibres and resin), fibreglass (plastic, resin, and glass fibres), bamboo (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) and even bricks (clay, shale, and water).

Composite applications

Due to their highly desirable mechanical properties and generally lightweight nature, composite materials are used in numerous industries, including aerospace, naval, automotive, sports and leisure..

Nickel composites

nickel composites are a popular choice for coatings as they can imbue attributes such as corrosion and heat resistance, strength, ductility and malleability.

 

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Examples of items made of composites

In the aerospace industry, composites play a crucial role. The fact that they are both strong and lightweight means that they can be used on wing and tail sections, propellers, rotor blades, internal fittings, airframes and body panels.

In the naval sphere, composites are used on boats because of their corrosion and heat resistance properties. They can also be moulded into shapes for use as boat hulls.

In the automotive industry, composites are used to make body panels, interior components, structural parts, and elements such as spoilers and diffusers.

In the sports and recreation sphere, glass and carbon-reinforced composites are used in fishing rods, tennis racquets, golf clubs, kayak paddles, hockey sticks, windsurfing masts and boards, and bicycle handlebars.

Any downsides?

The main downside of composites is that the raw materials that are needed tend to be quite expensive.

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