Using more than one construction substance to create a material or a structure with improved qualities is related to the composites. Numerous examples of simple composite material used since ancient times and innovative solutions applied in large multi-storeyed buildings allow obtaining materials with enhanced properties, such as durability, strength, thermal efficiency, and lightness. Innovative construction techniques make using sustainable building materials efficiently possible.
A composite material is a combination of two or more substances with different physical and chemical qualities. The perfect composite construction material consists of the components completing each other’s downsides. For example, a material can become more robust, lighter, more stretchable, or resistant to electricity or corrosion in combination with a composite possessing specific characteristics. Traditional materials often require improvement of the properties to be used in various construction projects.
Using composites appears to be beneficial for the environment in many cases. By adding composites, the material’s durability is affected, which influenced the reduction in material use. Enhancing the properties of the building materials results in better insulation, thermal conductivity and more efficient energy consumption. Innovations are allowing the creation of versatile composite materials to provide new opportunities for recycling.
The use of composites in construction started way back in 3400 BC in Iraq, from gluing wood strips to create plywood. Later mud bricks were reinforced with straw. During the industrial revolution, polyester and vinyl were invented due to the knowledge about chemicals. The breakthrough in the composites’ area started in 1930 with the first fibre reinforced polymer, which continues to be used today. With the high interest in ecological issues these days, the active research and innovations are related to the green composite materials and enhancement of their properties.
Examples of composite materials
Mud bricks. Understanding the resistance of the straw to stretching and its ability to hold the mud and clay still inspires the creation of advanced composites.
Fiberglass. A combination of plastic with glass fibers is widely used today for manufacturing windows, doors, and bathtubs.
Engineered wood. Weak wood can be used with higher properties when cut into pieces and glued together, still remaining soft enough for nailing.
Engineered bamboo. High compression and tensility of bamboo are achieved by gluing together the strips of bamboo fibre.
Composite honeycomb. A group of highly compressive composites with the honeycomb design allowing to reduce the materials’ cost.
Reinforced concrete. Steel bars possessing high tensile strength make concrete stronger.
Polymer matrix composite (PMC). Various fibers are connected together by an organic polymer matrix transferring the loads between fibers.
Ceramic matrix composite. Fracture resistance of the ceramics can be achieved by spreading it in a ceramic matrix.
Laminated composites. Bonded thin layers like fibrous composite layers create laminated composites, which become widely used in high-performance structures.
Sandwich panel. Layers of different composites on top of each other form a sandwich panel.
Papier-mache. Papers are bound together in layers with an adhesive.
Parquetry. Wood pieces can be arranged together as solid decorative pieces for the flooring.
Foams. Microballoons out of light materials combined with glass, carbon or plastic are produced to fill metals and ceramics.