Corrosion resistance is just one benefit of FRP that’s leading to new industrial solutions.
One of the most widely known benefits of composites is their corrosion resistance in industrial settings. However, some industry experts like Brad Doudican, Ph.D., P.E., president of Advantic LLC often wonder if perhaps the industry is beating a dead horse. He believes that after decades of proven performance, the benefits that FRP offers pipes and tanks should be clear by now. “We hammer corrosion so much,” Doudican says of the industry.
According to Doudican and other FRP fabricators who work in industrial markets, the obvious corrosion-resistant benefits that composite pipes and tanks provide to chemical processing, oil and gas, and other corrosive environments are what make FRP products the first choice. What’s less clear is how to build upon that strong corrosion resistance story to expand composites’ use beyond pipes and tanks and other standard applications to provide new solutions – including dual corrosion-resistant and heat-resistant products that better serve evolving industrial environments.
AOC LLC, a Collierville, Tenn.-based supplier of resin systems, is one of those companies working to develop the next generation of products that combine properties, such as heat and corrosion resistance. “Usually there’s a trade off,” explains Dr. John McAlvin, vice president of technology for AOC. “If you have a product that’s good in one area, it may not be good in another area. We’re trying to make resins that have multiple features and benefits that are good for environments that are very hot and very corrosive.” Product development is a lengthy process that includes measuring the retention of physical properties after long-term exposure tests to a variety of chemicals and high temperatures.
There’s growing interest in this combination of features, but FRP is not widely known among end users for its heat resistance. Fabricators and suppliers in the composites industry are trying to change that.
FRP Can Stand the Heat
Take the semiconductor industry, for example. “In the past approximately 15 years, with the advent of the semiconductor industry, there has been a need for high-temperature duct that would not smoke and burn so it could be used in clean room environments, such as semiconductor plants,” explains Daniel Naugle, president of North East, Md.-based FRP product fabricator Composites USA.
Composites USA began working to develop products that could meet the growing demand of these sensitive areas, which also soon included university and research cleanrooms. Ductwork in these areas must meet the UL 181 rating, which limits products to a flame-spread index of no less than 25 and a smoke-developed index of less than 50. But it also has to withstand potential corrosion from chemicals, such as the hydrofluoric acid that is one of the key chemicals needed to manufacture silicon components.