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Everlasting Fibre-glass Plastic


More durable helmets, vests, ski-sticks and various other fibre-glass plastic products are close to becoming a reality. Provided, of course, the manufacturers apply new technology – the one developed by the Chernogolovka scientists supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE).

When fibre-glass plastic products were first introduced to the market, the applicability of the material seemed truly unlimited. Later there appeared quite a number of disadvantages to accompany the numerous benefits. Helmets and ski-sticks got broken and boats got cracked. The reason is quite trivial for a composite material – insufficiently strong cohesion between the base, i.e. glass fiber, and the polymer matrix. Under loads and especially in the presence of moisture, the polymer gets exfoliated from the glass fibers which results in cracking. Besides, in extreme conditions the reinforcing glass fiber itself is split into separate monofibres, thus, causing the product destruction.

Theoretically, the solution to this problem is evident: the cohesion among the reinforcing fibers and with the matrix should be strengthened. However, it is not so easily done in practice: glass as well as the polymer polyolefinic matrix are rather inert chemically, inertia being one of the most important advantages of these composites. The adhesion ability of the low-cost polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene) to be preferably used as a matrix is not high either.

A rather effective solution to the problem was offered by the scientists from the Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences. They managed to chemically bond reinforcing glass fibers and the polymer matrix together, having initially modified fibre-glass surface and increased the surface concentration of silanol groups chemically reactive to finishing agents.

As a matter of fact, the authors have not so far succeeded in direct effective reaction between these two passive substances. But they have come up with the materials that could serve as binders between the polymer and glass. The scientists used special finishing substances, including silicon and titanium composites, as a kind of ‘bridges’. To increase the effectiveness of bonding these ‘agents’ to the fiber glass, the scientists learned to activate its surface.

To test the endurance of the materials received using new technology the authors applied all methods available: stretching, bending, breaking, etc. Some technological approaches proved to produce real leaders among fiber glass materials, in their category, of course.

So, the Chernogolovka fiber glass method is as follows. You should take manufactured fiber glass, activate it with acid, saturate it with special solution and add melted polymer. The resulting material will be several times more durable than its analogue produced through conventional technology. It will be much more rigid structurally and, in addition, more moisture-resistant. This means that products made of such fiber glass will have extended life and higher reliability.

There are other versions of technology though, each corresponding to a specific kind of polymer matrix. The authors do not disclose the details, these are being patented.

At the same time the scientists go on improving technology, examine structure and properties of new materials, and investigate alternative ways of bonding the polymer matrix to the fiber glass, for instance, radiation. But there is already one thing of which they are sure: the development of a diversity of new materials is nearing completion - those having no analogues either in Russia or abroad.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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