Composite panels could provide durable alternative, say UMR researchers

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On September 13, 2005

Note to the Big, Bad Wolf: Save your breath. A few huffs and puffs won’t budge the new building panels being manufactured at the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Funded by a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the UMR researchers are developing energy-efficient and durable core-filled composite panels for housing. Their work is in response to a growing demand for quality and affordable housing.

“Fiber-reinforced composites offer inherent advantages over traditional materials with regard to high strength-to-weight ratio, design flexibility, corrosion resistance, low maintenance and extended service life,” says Dr. K. Chandrashekhara, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UMR.

The cost of composites, a key barrier for their use in the housing industry, can be lowered by using renewable natural materials, such as corn and cellulose. Researchers will manufacture the panels in the Composite Manufacturing Laboratory at UMR using pultrusion, a process where the panels are saturated with resin and continuously pulled through a heated die.

“The pultrusion process is considered to be the fastest and most economical composite manufacturing process,” Chandrashekhara adds.

UMR students create composite panels in the Composite Manufacturing Laboratory on campus.

The new building panels will be easy to construct, termite proof and weather resistant. Rolla Technical Institute, Thermocore of Missouri in Jefferson City, and Midwest Padding of Norfolk, Neb., will participate on this project for field evaluation and product performance.

“The test procedures and analysis will provide the basis for developing guidelines for acceptance of these new materials for housing applications,” adds Dr. Eric Showalter, assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at UMR.

The research is a continuation of another UMR affordable composite house project that was funded by the National Science Foundation. That project, “Renewable and Resource Efficient Composite Materials for Affordable Housing,” was recently selected by the organization’s 24-member Advisory Committee on Performance to represent the foundation’s “success in its demonstration of significant achievement.”

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On September 13, 2005. Posted in Research