Products using the sealed foam include wind turbine rotor blades, motors and parts for infrastructure applications. The technology was recently demonstrated by 3A Composites customer Pauger Yachts, which used SealX to reduce the weight of its Balaton Blue Ribbon Regatta 50-foot catamaran. The carbon fiber and epoxy sandwich composite hull infused with SealX helped the team reduce the weight of the boat and complete the course in record-breaking time, Angst says.
Today, to help composites firms perform life cycle assessments for various sandwich structures, as well as promote its AIREX polymer foams and BALTEK balsa wood lines, 3A Composites offers a tool called the Hybrid Core Calculator. It uses life cycle data for the most common sandwich skins and core materials to calculate the environmental footprint of a sandwich structure. Environmental impacts are calculated for each phase of a product’s life cycle, and measurements include primary energy consumption, greenhouse potential and water consumption.
A New Perspective on Cork
The pleading-for-silence phrase “Put a cork in it!” has new meaning, especially when it comes to composite applications.
Cork, known for its use in low-tech applications like wine bottle stoppers and bulletin boards, now shows promise as the core material in composite sandwich structures for use in high-tech automotive, aircraft and energy applications. Researchers at the University of Delaware are investigating the use of cork for those projects, particularly because of its ability to mitigate sound.
“It’s energy absorbing, tough, lightweight and impact resistant, and it has excellent vibrational and acoustic damping properties,” says Jonghwan Suhr, assistant professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering and faculty at the Center for Composite Materials. He says instead of lining the interior of aerospace parts with several inches of fiberglass, a cork sandwich core will decrease weight and increase dampening performance.
Advised by Suhr, recent University of Delaware master’s program graduate James Argainis led the research with help from postdoctoral researcher Hyung-ick Kim. (Argainis now works for the Naval Air Systems Command in Lakehurst, N.J.) Their findings, recently published in the online, open-access journal Scientific Reports, gained the attention of Portuguese-based Amorim, a producer of thermal and acoustic insulation materials based on natural raw cork. In an email to Suhr, a company representative praised the detail of the study. A group from Amorim plans to visit the university soon to learn more about the work, Suhr says.