The astronaut Neil Armstrong once said, “Research is creating new knowledge.” Think about all the innovative ideas and applications that have revolutionized the composites industry in the past five, 10 and 20 years. Many of them began with basic science in a university laboratory, and then blossomed into applied science and ultimately a technology transfer.

Research and development in higher learning institutions around the globe is critical. It leads to breakthroughs that benefit industry and humanity. Composites Manufacturing did some research of its own to present a sampling of noteworthy achievements from various universities. Their research has led to new knowledge about nanocomposites, bomb-proof containers, fire-safe structures and more. Throughout this month we will highlight universities that are key in moving research to composite reality.

Project: Prototype bridge with composite decking
School: Bristol University
Location: Bristol, United Kingdom
Director: Wendel Sebastian

Proponents of composite materials know the benefits of FRP composite bridge decks: They are resistant to corrosion and fatigue, lightweight and strong. Composite bridge decks can be installed rapidly and require significantly lower maintenance compared to steel grating. The catch is convincing civil engineers that FRP composite bridge decks are right for rehabilitating existing bridges and constructing new ones. Engineers want proof of the structural properties. A research team from Bristol University is providing it—on a large scale.

Wendel Sebastian, a senior lecturer in civil engineering at Bristol, built and tested a prototype of a full-scale bridge at the university’s structures lab. The bridge, which is 8 meters long and 3.65 meters wide, comprises glass fiber triangulated composite decking and prestressed concrete beams. The joints are bonded solely by adhesives, between adjacent advanced composite deck modules as well as between the composite deck and concrete beams.