A Quick Overview to Composite Materials

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Are you familiar with composite materials? If not, this is the right time for you to have clear and better understanding about the stated topic. When you hear the “composite materials”, what is the first thing that comes into your mind? According to researches, composite materials are also known as composition materials or in short composites. Composite materials can be defined as materials that are made from more than one constituent material with different chemical and physical properties. When you combine these two, you will have a great chance to produce a certain material with salient characteristics that are dissimilar from the so-called individual components. In line with this, the individual component will remain distinct and separate within the end structure. The existence of new material will be preferred for various reasons and the usual examples for these include materials which are less or lighter expensive and stronger when it is being compared to the traditional materials. There are also typical engineered composite materials that include:

  • ceramic composites
  • metal composites
  • reinforced plastics that include fiber-reinforced polymer
  • composite building materials that include concrete and cements

Composite materials are commonly utilized for structures, bridges and buildings such as counter tops, cultured marble sinks, imitation granite, storage tanks, bathtubs, shower stalls, race car bodies, swimming pools panels and boat hulls. There are also advanced example that makes use of composite materials on spacecraft.

History of Composite materials

According to studies, the earliest man made composite materials are mud and straw that are combined to form bricks for construction of buildings. The ancient brick making was being documented by the tomb paintings of Egyptians. In line with this, the daub and wattle are considered as one of the oldest man-made composite materials. Concrete is also recognized as composite material that is being used by most people up to this point of time.

As of the year 2006, there are about 7.5 billion cubic meters of concrete that are being made every year that is equivalent to one cubic for each person on the planet Earth. Woody plants such as bamboo and palms are considered as natural composites that are also used by mankind in the field of scaffolding and construction. There are 2 categories of constituent materials that include reinforcement and matrix. The matrix material is the one that is responsible to support the reinforcement materials in a form of maintaining the relative positions.

In connection with this, the reinforcements will impart their physical and mechanical properties to improve the matrix properties. The well-known synergism has the ability to produce properties that are unavailable from individual constituent materials while matrix will strengthen the materials and at the same time allow the product designer of a certain structure to opt an optimum combination.

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The matrix material can also be introduced to reinforcement before the reinforcement material placed into mould cavity or also known as mould surface. This is the time that the matrix material will experience melding event after the part set is completely set. In line with this, the melding event can also occur in different ways that include solidification or polymerization from their melted state. There are also molding methods that can be utilized to the finished item and design requirements. The main factors that are impacting the methodology are the chosen reinforcement materials and matrix materials.

Examples of Materials

  • Concrete is considered as the most usual artificial composite material since it typically composed of loose stones or also known as “aggregate” that is held with matrix of cement. According to researches, concrete is recognized as robust material than cement since it will not shatter or compress even under huge compressive force. However, concrete doesn’t have the ability to survive tensile loading especially when it is being stretched since it will easily break apart. In order for concrete to be able to resist when it is being stretched, they make use steel bars that have the potential to resist high stretching forces to easily form reinforced concrete.
  • The fibre-reinforced polymer includes glass-reinforced plastic or carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. There are also a wide variety of thermoset composites. However, they need to incorporate advanced systems like carbon fibre and aramid fibre in an epoxy resin matrix.
  • The shape memory composite are also known as high performance composites that are formulated with the use of fabric or fibre reinforcement and shape memory polymer as the matrix. Since the shape memory polymer is being used as the matrix, it simply means that this composite has the ability to easily manipulate into different configurations especially when they are heated above their required activation temperature.
  • In connection with this, these composite can also be reshaped and reheated without losing their material properties. This is one of the main reasons why these composites are ideal for applications that include dynamic reinforcement, rapid manufacturing, deployable structures, rigid and lightweight. Composites have the potential to use metal fibres and the ceramic composites are being built for fracture toughness and not for strength.


  • The fibre-reinforced composite materials have already earned popularity despite of its high cost. These composite materials come with high performance and the end products are lightweight yet strong. This is the perfect composite materials that can be used to loading conditions that include aerospace components, racing car bodies, swimming pool panels, bicycle frames and scull and boat hulls. According to studies, the latest Boeing 787 structure is composed of huge composites. Apart from this, the use of composite materials is also popular in the world of orthopedic surgery.
  • The carbon composite is considered as the key material in the launch of today’s heat shields and vehicles for the re-entry of spacecraft. Moreover, it is also widely used in antenna reflectors, spacecraft yokes and solar panels. It can also be utilized in inter-stage structures, heat shields of vehicles and payload adapters. In addition to this, the disk brake system of racing cars and airplanes are also using composite materials and carbon material with silicon carbide matrix and carbon fibres that are being introduced in sports cars and luxury vehicles.

To prevent failures, composite materials are being tested before and after the construction. Composite materials are tested with the use of nondestructive methods that includes X-ray radiography, shearography, thermography and ultrasonics.