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How common are composite materials?

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Are there materials, used in everyday applications, that people don’t realise are composite materials?



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Yes indeed! People can probably spot things like lacquered carbon which is often designed to be seen and has an aesthetic quality.  However, most composites are hidden, painted or covered.  In your car there will be many injection moulded components that have short glass fibre reinforcement; pedals, dash components, seat assemblies and motor mounts for example. There may well be natural-fibre reinforcement in door casings, parcel shelves or roof linings.

Sports goods such as backpacks, shin guards, body protection suits, motorcycle jackets, hockey sticks, skis and golf clubs often have composite components.  They may have carbon reinforcement to aid the stiffness or thermoplastic composites to improve the impact protection.

In mass transport composites are widely used to make vehicles or aircraft lighter and therefore more economical.  Around 50% of a modern transport aircraft frame is carbon fibre and in almost every bus or tram there will be glass-reinforced composites for the body panels, interior panels and seats.

The latest composites include nano-reinforced materials.  Graphene and carbon nano-tubes are reinforcements at a tiny scale but they have the same effect  – to improve the mechanical properties. They also have conductivity effects and so you will see them being used increasingly in smart phones and laptops.

We could go on… but be aware that some things are designed to look like carbon fibre but aren’t – automotive trims and accessories are sometimes printed with a pattern for effect but have none of the properties of real composites.

Coventive Tech Manager

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