Textile composites have become an integral component in building construction over the last 50-75 years. They come in all strengths, weights, and materials, but they’re used in nearly every modern building on the face of the planet in some form or another.
Of course, composites are not a new construction component! Wood itself is a composite, and thousand-year-old mud huts took advantage of some of the most important benefits of composites. How are composite textiles – essentially composite “fabrics” that can be layered and manipulated – contributing to the advancement of structural engineering? Here are a few ways composite textiles are making our buildings stronger.
Composites Spread Tension
Composite materials are made of reinforcements suspended within a matrix. Because of the way they’re composed, they have incredibly high strength-to-weight ratios which grow exponentially when one composite material (like a textile) is layered on top of another. In buildings, composites protect the structure from damage by acting as shock absorbers, spreading out the stress of an impact or blunt force throughout the entire matrix. Because the reinforcement fibers in composites, they can be arranged in specific directions to provide highly-targeted strength protection. These materials are excellent resources for parts of a building that are most at-risk of damage like roofs and exterior walls.
Matrix Materials Imbue Different Characteristics
Composite engineering has a long history of reinforcement development. Fiberglass, the most common commercial composite material, can be imbedded with literally hundreds of different types of glass fibers including those chosen specially for characteristics such as rust-resistance or heat-insulation. Recently, R&D in the arena of matrixes has been improving structural outcomes. Different matrix materials can be used to enhance reinforcement characteristics such as heat resistance or friction resistance and engineers have barely scratched the surface.
Sandwich Layering Provides Unparalleled Strength
Composite textiles are uniquely equipped to act as the “skin” of sandwiched composites. Made by layering a honeycomb structure of plastic or other lightweight reinforcement between one or more skins of composite material, so-called sandwich composites offer incredibly high strength and bending stiffness. This is especially useful for buildings in areas that have an elevated earthquake risk, risk of high winds, or other natural threats. Because sandwich composites are so low weight, they can be used for interior building applications such as ceilings, too.
Textile composites are some of the most exciting products in development within the industry. They’re inherently malleable, endlessly customizable, and stronger than many of the traditional composites used in building and construction.
B&W Fiberglass is a leader in glass fiber composite research, development, and production. Our glass fiber reinforcements serve as the basis for some of today’s most exciting composite materials, many of which support strong, durable buildings.