Choice of Materials for Applications ……..Options aplenty !

Hello everyone ,

Nature’s unpredictability is at the fore again. Several parts of Europe are battered by bitter cold and snow as we speak, while many regions in North America are being blessed with unusually balmy weather (and bereft of snow) at this time of the year – with even predictions of an early spring. Can weather be more fickle ?

Statistics released late last week indicate a semblance of slow recovery in the U.S. and one hopes that the trend continues through H1, from a holistic perspective. The eurozone is also not worse off since my last post, which is good news. China’s manufacturing, though lukemarm, is not too much cause for concern at this point of time – a pullback from the boom years; but, nevertheless impressive.

The global economy is in repair mode and it would take time for the scars to heal. Predictions are for better growth in 2012 compared to 2011 and that is something to cheer about, for sure. Stock markets have vindicated such a trend thus far. 


The Canadian Government predicts that it will spend $74 billion to repair and maintain concrete bridges across the country [Composites Manufacturing]. Recent advances in reinforcing  concrete with GFRP could extend life of the structure to 100 years or more compared to steel-reinforced concrete,which would require major restoration after 25 years. Interesting data comparing the shear capacity of GFRP flat slabs with steel while be shared at the Composites 2012 shown in Las Vegas later this month. The CSAS 806 standard for designing and retrofitting with FRP reinforcement is proposed to be updated and the design codes completed by the year end.

Composites and concrete ….. the synergy extends more than just the common alphabets !

“Automakers race to lose weight “…thus read the headline in a recent issue of Chicago Tribune. Apart from the continuing efforts in making cars lighter; tightening up of regulations for reducing emissions by 2020 makes it necessary for breakthrough solutions. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids predominantly made of carbon fiber composites could be available from 2013. BMW is reportedly working to cut costs to a point where CFRP costs will be level with aluminum based on economies of scale. Recently, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced the Advanced Clean Cars program designed to reduce smog-causing pollutants and expected to lead to increased sale of zero-emission and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for model years 2017 to 2025 [Composites World].

When it comes to environmental awareness in reducing carbon emission, the whole world stands united.


Ever since international regulators approved the type of biofuel derived from biosynthetic kerosene and standard aviation fuel mix in late H1,2011; there have been a spate of “green flights”. Lufthansa‘s successful transatlantic flight last month from Frankfurt to Washington that burned 40 tons of a biofuel mix  resulted in a net reduction of 38 tons of carbon emissions – logic being that the carbon emitted during the flight was offset by carbon absorbed by the plants grown to produce the biofuel [Forbes].

An European mandate in the making that requires all jets that land or take off from the EU countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or buy credits to offset their carbon spew ?

Carbon and glass fibers are not the only reinforcements that witness constant improvements in mechanicals and processing capabilities due to developments in morphology. Treatment of aramid fibers in coupling agents’ solutions by gamma-ray co-irradiation, resulted in improvements in the interlaminar shear strength (ILSS) of aramid fiber/epoxy composites [Sciencia]. The irradiation technique enhanced the wettability of the fibers, improved interfacial adhesion, increased polar groups at the fiber surface and upped tensile strength.


That’s not all on aramid… if you thought that only carbon fiber was black, here is an interesting update. Teijin recently announced production of what it claims to be the first all-black high performance aramid fiber wherein the fiber is injected with a black dye in the process. Mechanical properties are said to be the same as the traditional yellow fibers [Compounding World].

Teasing and mind-boggling ? I am still endeavoring to find an apt word in the lexicon  to describe such pathbreaking developments !  All black reinforcing fibers are not necessarily carbon. Huh?

More exciting news on the thermoplastics front… The development of a non-brominated flame retardant system for Polypropylene (PP) based on synthesized mineral-based additives that demonstrates better extinguishing results marks a significant breakthrough [Plastics News]. The new product contains no decabromo or antimony and exceeds testing standards of UL 94 and ANSI 4996 for pellets and can be injection/blow molded and processed by extrusion.


Polycarbonate (PC) processors should have news to cheer about – it’s bane has been low scratch resistance. Dow announced last week  the development of an anti-scratch additive for compounding with PC to compete with UV-light cured PC hard coatings [Plastics News]. This solution eliminates a hard coating (usually an acrylic monomer) and cuts the cost by 50% to obtain a hardened PC.  Product commercialization is anticipated in the latter half this year. Potential applications for the additive-enhanced PC include automotive components (knobs,dashboards and eyeglass optics) and electronic-device housings and touch screens.


And now a wrap-up on resin prices.. In thermoplastics, PP prices jumped marginally last week (February trends) due to limited availability and soaring feedstock costs. PE remained steady [Plastics Today]. On thermosets, leading resin producers have announced price increases for pigmented resins and gel coats + unsaturated polyesters/vinyl esters for the NA and  European markets due to rising costs of oil-based feedstock raw materials and titanium dioxide prices.

Northbound, ahoy….resin prices !

The corrosion behavior of aluminum alloys in ethanol fuels has thrown up some interesting findings. Immersion and polarization tests in ethanol-blended gasoline fuels at various ethanol & water contents and various temperatures revealed a pronounced acceleration of the corrosion process above the boiling point as evidenced by electrochemical and gravimetric measurements. While increasing the ethanol content and temperature leads to a higher corrosion sensitivity of the aluminum alloys, addition of water restrains corrosion. A chemically-deposited nickel layer in one of the alloys displays greater protection [Sciencia].


The aluminum industry in the GCC region is on the brink of becoming a leading global contributor with 13% of  the global production by 2013, according to Deloitte, Middle East …up from 7% in 2010. The affordability of power and labor in the GCC region  is conducive to investment, considering the aluminum industry is highly energy-intensive. While  smelter capacity in the # 1 user China will continue to rise rapidly in coming years; as time wears on, it will be less able to satisfy its vast domestic needs [Trade Arabia News].

Shifting geographic trends arising out of increasing cost of utilities & labor in developed nations ? That’s the need of the hour born out of sheer necessity.


The levelized cost of wind energy is headed towards an all-time low of $0.03/Kwh in the best wind resource sites per February 2012 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory[LBNL]. These numbers are however dependent on the continuation of current federal tax incentives, such as the Production Tax Credit (PTC) in the U.S.[North American Wind Power].


Some analysts have called banks the canary in the coalmine, saying they can predict on recovery of the economy. One analyst differed, stating that the banks in Europe are the grenade, not the canary, as they are the ones who can fix it earlier or make it worse [CNBC].

Right now, banks are doing the balancing act and it appears to be paying off ! What can be better news?

Till the next post,


S. Sundaram



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