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Use of Polymer Composites in Construction Industry

The construction sector is one of the world’s largest consumers of polymer composites. Unreinforced polymer composite materials have been used by the construction industry for several years in non-load bearing applications such as kitchenware, vanities and cladding. In the last decade there has been a concerted effort to migrate reinforced polymer composites (RPCs) into the construction industry for use in primary load bearing applications. Potential advantages commonly expounded by proponents of RPC materials include high specific strength, high specific stiffness, tailorable durability, good fatigue performance, versatile fabrication and lower maintenance costs. As a result RPC reinforced polymer composites are being investigated in applications such as alternative reinforcement for concrete ,rehabilitation and retrofit, and also for entire fibre composite structures. However, to date the number of primary structural applications of RPCs in construction remains relatively low and there appears to be a number of issues contributing to their slow uptake by the construction industry. Issues such as cost, absence of design codes, lack of industry standardisation, poor understanding of construction issues by composites industry, lack of designers experienced with polymer composite materials and civil/building construction are commonly claimed to place these materials at a disadvantage when considered against traditional construction materials. However, this paper proposes that as issues of sustainability become increasingly important to material choice, some fibre composite materials could be at an advantage over traditional materials.

Composite materials combine and maintain two or more distinct phases to produce a material that has properties far superior than either of the base materials. Composite materials have been used in construction for thousands of years.

Polymer composites are multi-phase materials produced by combining polymer resins such as polyester, vinylester and epoxy, with fillers and reinforcing fibres to produce a bulk material with properties better than those of the individual base materials. Fillers are often used to provide bulk to the material, reduce cost, lower bulk density or to produce aesthetic features. Fibres are used to reinforce the polymer and improve mechanical properties such as stiffness and strength. High strength fibres of glass, aramid and carbon are used as the primary means of carrying load, while the polymer resin protects the fibres and binds them into a cohesive structural unit. These are commonly called fibre composite materials. Polymer composites have enjoyed widespread use in the construction industry for many years in non-critical applications such as baths and vanities, cladding, decoration and finishing. In recent times fibre composite materials have been increasingly considered for structural load bearing applications by the construction industry and have established themselves as a viable and competitive option for rehabilitation and retrofit of existing civil structures, as a replacement for steel in reinforced concrete and to a lesser extent new civil structures.

About the Author:

Mr. Varun Kumar, is a leading engineer working in the field of Polymer Industry for more than a decade. He has worked for many MNCs working in this domain. Presently he is holding leading role in a multinational wind energy company in western India.

About The Author