Composites Buck the Trend…. and Riding High!

Hello everyone,

Hot on the heels of my last post, comes positive news of Qantas re-commencing its A380 flights and Boeing flying back its 787 aircraft after a quick identification of the cause and subsequent rectification. Needless to state, as we all know, composites had nothing to do with the aborted flights in both cases.


The world continues to be battered with extreme weather — parts of Europe and North America have been hit by a snow deluge and abnormal, unseasonal sub-zero temperatures while parts of Middle East and South Asia experienced incessant rain. Add the fact that the United Nations Convention on Climate Change is currently in session (as I write this post) with the ominous forecast of a 4 degree Celsius rise in global temperature and increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century… and we realize that nature’s fury can not only be fickle, but uncontrollable! The composites industry, however, is playing its part in a responsible manner by focusing on increasing usage in automotive applications (aided to a great extent by Government policies of nations/regions on achieving increased vehicle mileage) through the dual objectives of weight reduction and reduced emissions.


In spite of the U.S. housing market being in dire straits, the American Concrete Institute (ACI)’s Committee 440 (FRP Composites) will be balloting several updates on FRP strengthening materials in seismic strengthening applications and the first ever report on FRP durability in concrete applications. This is a big welcome step forward with practical, commercially viable solutions to mitigate the hardships in the future, of several countries  that are prone to unpredicatable earthquakes — Haiti is still fresh in our memory.

Apart from thermal insulation, pultruded window frames made from glass fiber reinforced polyurethane resin system offer favorable flexural modulus characteristics and their strength-to-weight ratio is very much comparable to those of aluminum and steel. The thermal conductivity of Bayer‘s specialty PU resin system is listed in the National Fenestration Rating Council‘s (NFRC) recent publication.

As an extension of my last post on protective armor, there is really exciting news from the November 2010 issue of Specialty Fabrics Review that speaks of  potential body armor based on CORN STARCH – basically a composite polymer material that is fluid at rest, but hardens on impact. The basis for the liquid-to-solid reaction is shear thickening. Well, well, we live in the fascinating world of make-believe; witnessing technological breakthroughs that are not only mind boggling, but having significant impact on our daily lives.


For composites news in the wind energy sector, the winds of change continue to blow stronger than ever. The buzzword in recent times is the “offshore wind market”. While the UK was and will continue to be the leading market for offshore wind with projected new capacity in excess of 4.4 GW  by 2015 (thanks to unflinching support by the UK government), Germany and China are not lagging too far behind in the race. Together, the three nations are expected to install 9.3 GW or 83 % of total global capacity in the next five years, as stated by Reinforced Plastics. China is expected to be the leader of the pack early in the next decade. With individual turbine units in the 5 to 8 MW range and blade lengths in excess of 61.5 meters, carbon fibers seem an ideal choice.

Are fiber producers listening?

According to a report by the Marine Board of European Science Foundation, Europe could get up up to 50% electricity from renewable marine sources (that includes offshore wind, wave, tidal and ocean currents) by 2050 that includes establishing an European offshore energy grid.

I find it interesting to sign off on wind energy with an unlikely potential hero in Africa (to overcome acute electricity shortage) according to a recent survey by the International Quality & Productivity Center (IQPC). This will be further explored at the Wind Power Development & Implementation Conference in Cairo from December 12-15.


At the recently concluded Big 5 Expo in Dubai, construction spend in the Gulf region is pegged at around $72 billion in 2011, with a third of the contracts being awarded to the UAE  and the world’s tallest residential tower (414 meters) at the Dubai Marina due for completion in Q4 2011, surpassing the record of the 323 meter tower located on the Gold Coast of Australia. Hold on… we are not done yet — the ultimate record of 550 meters will be the Pentominium Tower located in the Dubai Marina and slated for completion in 2013. FRP processors globally would have already started making a beeline to bag some lucrative architectural and structural contracts. No wonder resin producers keep hiking prices and glass fiber producers are setting up plants in the Middle East . The UAE construction sector is expected to witness a CAGR of 20% between 2010 and 2013.

Boom time indeed for composites in the region!

A recent report in Gulf News, by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) states that the Gulf is returning to solid growth path expanding at 4.1% in 2010 and 4.6% in 2011, mainly underpinned by higher oil prices supporting robust government spending and exports and by normalization of global trade and capital flows.


To reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, the U.S biofuels policy offers tax credits to companies that blend ethanol with gasoline (petrol). U.S ethanol, subsidized as a homegrown alternative to foreign oil is being exported in record volumes. It is really a study in contrast: while the U.S. resorts to such measures to reduce oil imports, the Gulf region is working to reduce excessive dependence on oil as the growth driver of the economy by focusing on manufacturing and turning their oil into refined products and petrochemicals. We are all aware of the spate of petrochemical plants coming up mainly in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the GCC. That the world continues to battle the excessive reliance on oil, per se through relentless pursuit of alternate commercially viable fuels speaks volumes of commitment to a cause.

No one can whine that efforts are lacking!


A recent Bloomberg news column argued the case for replacing Russia with Indonesia in view of the former’s inability to develop into a mature economy, prompting investors to clamor for the change.

Your take on this?

As we enter the holiday season, I am signing off on behalf of ESSJAY COMPOSITES with the news that the next post will be published on January 10, 2011.

We here at ESSJAY will be wrapping up some 2010 projects and are excited for what 2011 will bring. We have promising prospects on our horizon for the next year, and we hope and wish the same for you, dear readers!

Till then,

Happy holidays from the ESSJAY COMPOSITES HQ in snowy Canada!


S Sundaram

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