The consortium has focused mainly on FRPs in the areas of concrete repair and external insulation. “If a column is wrapped with FRP, the FRP provides an external insulation to the system,” says Green. This is important for two reasons: The insulation prevents the FRP itself from burning early in a fire and it gives the structure much higher strength in a fire than there would be without the material.

The group conducted testing with both columns and beams. “We took regular reinforced concrete columns and beams and sprayed the FRP insulation on the structure to strengthen them. We then put the columns and beams into a special chamber at NRC. The conditions in that chamber are designed to simulate exactly what you’d expect to happen to those structures when they’re exposed to fire,” says Green.

Green feels the process has yet to reach its full potential: “It could open up opportunities where there’s little infrastructure to start with so you have to rely on FRP as a strengthening situation as well. In situations such as fires, we need a better idea of exactly what its strength is under those conditions. If you’re looking at FRP for internal reinforcement, although the behavior is a bit different in terms of the products, they meet under different conditions.”

Project: Bio-Resin
School: University of Delaware
Location: Newark, Delaware
Director: Richard Wool

The United Soybean Board asked Richard Wool, professor at the University of Delaware, to develop green resins from surplus soybean oil. Wool assembled a team of chemists, pharmaceutical professionals and food science experts to come up with a solution. This collaborative effort resulted in patents that became the basis for new bio-resins. The group also discovered how to toughen resins with lignum, a wood tissue.

The green composite resins are suited to liquid molding operations such as RTM and high-performance applications, bulk molding and sheet molding compounds. “The transition from petroleum-based resins involved extensive research into the properties of oils. The objective was to appropriate the right oils for the right purpose and learn how to design molecular architectures that would translate into good properties,” Wool explains.

The resins are commercially available in such applications as a John Deere tractor. “In an application like a bulk molding compound, they will be developed by a compounder specifically for different applications in automotive or appliances. We can currently tailor the monomers for each of these,” says Wool.