Applications and Technologies
The MPAD composites facility caters to full cycle solution development from concept to prototype with a view of commercialization. A brief overview of the sectors and markets that MPAD has contributed are summarized here. Please contact us for further information.
Mass Transit and Heavy Truck Components
Due to stringent CAFE standards and regulations, the automotive, mass transit and truck industry is seeking ways for lightweighting their components. The UAB team through Integrated Process and Product Development had developed a number of components with 40-60% weight savings. These include components such as seats, floor segments, roof panels, side body walls, side access doors and other interior/exterior components with advanced, yet cost-effective composites. Selective insertion of thermoplastic composite materials-manufacturing strategies have resulted in cost and weight savings for the transportation applications.
As part of the DOE GATE center, the GATE student scholars are focused on lightweighting next generation vehicles. Advanced materials, processes, testing, modeling and applications development are some of the key focus areas of the GATE projects. The students gain experience with advanced composites, metal castings, and hybrid materials design concepts to protoype development. The GATE scholars also participate in the design and construction of lightweight carbon fiber composites for companies such as Honda of America (HOA) to support the 'One Lap of America' race. Technologies related to recycled carbon fiber, carbon-thermoplastic composites, bio-friendly composites using natural fibers, recycled composites from transport scrap are some of the technologies emerging from the GATE program.
Personnel Protection: The UAB team has developed lightweight helmets with a range of characteristics such as integrated stiffness, deflective ability, mounting points and features that enhance the blast and ballistic survivability. These helmets are readily adaptable for a range of applications such as helmets for bicycles, football, baseball etc. Advanced materials-processes have been applied for extremity protection such as below the knee and elbow, groin guards and neck protection. Related developments have focused on tourniquets, reduced bleeding and protection against blunt trauma.
Vehicles: Military vehicles, doors, floor segments and complex shape/small miscellaneous components and composite armor have been developed with innovative, energy-efficient, low cost advanced materials. The advances made in these focus on lightweighting, energy-efficient, durable and ntegrally colored, readilly assembled features.
Weapon System and Missile Parts: The UAB team has developed innovative cost-effective components for tank projectiles and missile applications. Most of the parts developed replace an existing metal or thermoset composite with damage tolerant, high performing thermoplastic composites. The solution achieved weight and cost savings. The parts have been through evaluations by the sponsors and are in procurement stages for commercialization.
The UAB team has been working with the ONR Solid Mechanics program for number of years. Thermoset laminates and sandwich composites with glass and carbon fiber facesheets and a range of cores including balsa, PVC and metal foam are being considered for ship decks, hull and radar mast structures. The MPAD team manufactures large panels up to 4 ft x 8 ft size with vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) - resin infusion. Complex loading scenarios and environment such as high speed mulit-site impacts, blast loading, impact during compression (pre-stress), fire damage, hydrodynamic ram and wave slamming impacts are being investigated as part of this program.
Energy Companies/FRP Industries/Power Plants
The UAB MPAD team has been working with and supporting power, FRP and utility companies. A number of coal-fired plants and supporting infrastructure such as flue gas towers, scrubbers, piping, duct, decks, walkways and connections are made from fiberglass composites. These structures generally comprise thick-section FRP composites (2 to 4 inchese in some cases). MPAD caters to the various needs of these industries in terms of testing support for long-term durability of composites, environmental behavior, corrosion/creep and other design parameters. MPAD tests to RTP-1, ASTM and related standards, and also in several cases non-conventional testing that requires design and custom fixturing.
Green and Recycled Materials
UAB MPAD is a signficant member of the Biocomposites International Research Network (BIRN) which promotes research and development of bio-based composites across the globe. BIRN’s current membershi comprises researchers from the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. As part of BIRN and GATE, research and education in biocomposite focuses on compounded biofibers, flax-banana-jute and kenaf fibers, bio-resins, processing of bio-composites, applications for vehicles and infrastructure, nanostructured bio-nano fibers, moisture and durability of bio-composites. The re-utilization of composite scrap generated from fabrication of large structures such as trailers, trucks and vehicles ends up in landfill. The UAB MPAD team is finding ways of reducing carbon footprint and waste, by developing paneling and profiles for reuse in infrastructure, building and low-cost housing from scrap.
Composites in Biomechanics
UAB has an excellent medical school and several opportunities for plastics and composites relate to biomechanics problems. The MPAD team has been working on carbon fiber based orthopedic bone implants, dental implants, minimizing concussion in sports, and handicap aids such as lightweight crutches, wheelchair and shopping cart part etc. Several of these efforts are tied to high-fidelity modeling and simulation. UAB is well-equipped with specialized equipment such as an instrumented biomechanics impactor to evaluate head and/or body-structure interactions and instrumented NOCSAE helmet testing facility.
The UAB MPAD team is focusing on technologies for bridges, residential and commercial buildings featuring energy-efficient composite products. These include window profiles, roofing, sheathing and decking, hurricane protection shelters, interior multifunctional panels developed with energy-efficient lightweight compounded foams and thermoplastic composites. Thermoplastic pultrusion, extrusion-compression molding, co-molding of hybrid materials, preforms and short/long fibers are examples of materials and processes being used in these applications. The UAB team has also successfully retrofitted (repaired) a bridge girder section of I-565 with vacuum infusion on-site. The team is also involved with featuring a pedestrian bridge construction in Vestavia Hills, Birmingham, Alabama.
Composites for Sound and Vibration Reduction
The MPAD team is focusing on advanced materials with superior noise and vibration dampening. The team has ongoing work in vibration damping measurements, transmission loss and noise absorption through porous and tailored materials by design approach. Applications for hIghway noise control barriers, high temperature carbon/carbon composites, sandwich composites and paneling for music acoustics have been successfully demonstrated. The state of art Bruel and Kjaer Pulse analyzer and associated frequency analysis and real-time analysis software is used in the sound and vibration work.