A composite is a material that is made up of different components.
These are often fiber-reinforced plastics.
The fibers provide for the transmission of tensile forces, and the matrix (often a plastic material) holds the fibers together and allows for the transmission of compressive forces and shear stresses.
Best known fibers which are incorporated into composites are fiberglass, aramid (Twaron and Kevlar), carbon nanotubes and recently. In addition, natural fibers like flax or hemp composites are also used.
Examples of applications of composites:
- Fiberglass-reinforced structures are often used and found in the aircraft and shipbuilding industrt (hulls of fast yachts), but also bridges, storage silos for feed and circuit boards for electronic circuits are made of fiberglass reinforced plastics.
- Carbon fiber reinforced structures have high rigidity and are used in the Formula 1 and racing bikes
- Aramid fiber reinforced structures have a high impact resistance and toughness. They are mainly found in bulletproof doors and bullet-proof vests.
- Laminated glass, such as bullet-proof glass and the glass of a lot of car windows, is made up of layers of glass separated by layers of a plastic material such as polycarbonate. Laminated glass offers a relatively good heat and sound insulation.
- Another application is the formation of sheets of crushed natural stone mixed with plastics. These plates are extremely strong and are used in the kitchen as a work surface or as floor or wall coverings. The matrix materials used hereby are often thermosets as epoxy and polyester. Thermoplastics are less often used in these composites.
- Another example of composite is produced by Stork Fokker named Glare used in aircrafts, including the Airbus A380. Glare is a laminated composite consisting of aluminum and fiberglass.
- Also, materials such as plywood or even reinforced concrete can be considered as a composite.
More and more composite materials are used in attributes for various sports such as motorsport, the bicycle racing and canoeing.
The Netherlands has a knowledge center for composites, the Knowledge Circulation Centre Composites (K3C), which is involved in the creation of a European Virtual Institute for Composites.