09 July 2010
09 July 2010
Research scientists in Bolton and Southampton are working together to develop the next generation of composite materials for ships, to make them less vulnerable to fire.
The Universities of Bolton and Southampton have been awarded £775,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to carry out this research. The project, led by Bolton, begins in July and will run for 3.5 years. It aims to develop new resins which will be less flammable than those currently used in the production of shipping's large-scale composite materials, as well as ensuring that they produce minimum smoke and toxic products on burning.
These new materials will initially be developed for the ship's superstructure. However, these could also find applications in other engineering arenas such as road, rail transportation and aeronautical applications.
The project has attracted collaborators from all sectors of the marine market – from materials suppliers (Scott Bader), ship builders (BVF) and boat yards (BVT) to operators (RNLI and MoD/Dstl/Royal Navy) and involves regulators (Lloyd's Register and MoD) and statutory agencies (Maritime Coastguard Agency). They will provide practical guidance on issues such as regulatory issues, boatyard production challenges and vessel operating issues that may impact on materials design and selection.
Recorded shipping history lists dozens of vessels and thousands of lives lost to fire – as recently as 2004 when Bow Mariner sank following an explosion. Twenty-one of its 27 crew died.
Professor Baljinder Kandola of the investigating team from the University's Institute for Materials Research and Innovation said: 'Fire-retardant materials have been developed for many industries and we hope that shipping will be the next beneficiary. The materials we aim to develop could also have wider applications in both rail and air transport industries.'
The use of composites within the rail industry is predicted to grow by up to 40% between 2015 and 2020 according to the Composites Leadership Forum, reports Fibrelite, a UK manufacturer of composite trench covers.
Plasan Carbon Composites (PCC) has been awarded a contract to produce the first composite ramps and bridgeplates for Amtrak.