How do Composite Materials Work in Construction?
Composite construction is a generic term to describe any building construction product involving multiple dissimilar materials. Composite construction is often used in building construction. There are several reasons to use composite materials including increased strength, aesthetics, and environmental sustainability.
In structural engineering, composite construction exists when two different materials are bound together so strongly that they act together as a single unit from a structural point of view. The different materials work together to give the composite unique properties, but within the composite you may be able to tell the different materials apart.
Did you know that composites also exist in nature? A piece of wood is a form of composite, with long fibres of cellulose (a very complex form of starch) held together by a much weaker substance called lignin. Cellulose is also found in cotton and linen, but it is the binding power of the lignin that makes a piece of timber much stronger than a bundle of cotton fibres.
It’s not a new idea
Humans have been using composite materials for thousands of years. Take mud bricks for example. If you try to bend a cake of dried mud, it will break easily but it is strong if you try to squash, or compress it. A piece of straw, on the other hand, has a lot of strength when you try to stretch it but almost none when you crumple it up. When you combine mud and straw in a block, the properties of the two materials are also combined and you get a brick that is strong against both squeezing and tearing or bending. Put more technically, it has both good compressive strength and good tensile strength.
Composites have been made from
- A form of carbon called grapheme combined with the metal copper, producing a material 500 times stronger than copper on its own.
- Similarly, a composite of grapheme and nickel has strength greater than 180 times of nickel.
- As for fibreglass, it’s made from plastic that has been reinforced by filaments or fibres of glass. These filaments can either be bundled together or woven into a mat, or they are sometimes cut up into short lengths which are randomly oriented in the plastic matrix.
- Probably the best known composite is concrete. Here aggregate is bound together by cement. Concrete has good strength under compression, and it can be made stronger under tension by adding metal rods, wires, mesh or cables to the composite to create reinforced concrete.
- Composites made from metal oxides can also have specific electrical properties and are used to manufacture silicon chips that can be smaller and packed more densely into a computer. This improves the computer’s memory capacity and speed.
- Oxide composites are also used to create high temperature superconducting properties that are now used in electrical cables.
Choosing the right materials for your construction project
Thermosetting plastics are liquid when prepared but harden and become rigid (ie, they cure) when they are heated. The setting process is irreversible, so that these materials such as composite decking and cladding do not become soft under high temperatures. These plastics also resist wear and attack by chemicals making them very durable, even when exposed to extreme winter weather. The component parts are bonded together under high pressure to create an incredibly durable finished decking or cladding product that is designed to outlast traditional timber
Composite Cladding or Decking
Introduced as a viable alternative to timber, composite cladding and decking can help to reduce or even eliminate the typical maintenance issues associated with traditional timber. Teckwood’s composite decking and cladding boards are made up of FSC certified wood and recycled plastics. Because of the use of recycled and/or recovered materials in the manufacturing process, composite decking and cladding are considered a more environmentally friendly product for your construction project.
While these practical structural advantages are important, architects and homeowners should also choose composite cladding and decking boards based on style, texture and colour. For the best and most beautiful composite decking and cladding options, choosing a trusted manufacturer like Teckwood is the first step in building the home or outdoor living space of your dreams. Any architectural challenge or design can be solved with one of Teckwood’s systems solutions.