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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Research center helps industries produce improved composites

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 04 - September 14, 1995

Virginia Tech's NSF Science and Technology Center for High Performance Polymeric Adhesives and Composites is a partner in two Advanced Technology Program awards from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Ciba Composites Industrial Business Group of Kent, Wash., and Wellstream Inc. Panama City, Fla. were two of seven firms to receive matching ATP funds for proposals to manufacture composite structures. Virginia Tech will be a subcontractor on both projects, providing research and technical expertise in composite-material development and testing.

"That we are participating in two ATP awards in one year shows the strength of our composites program here at Virginia Tech," says Tim Pickering, assistant director of the NSF center.

Jim McGrath, director of the Virginia Tech center, and colleagues will be subcontractors to Ciba Corp. on a program to develop polymer-matrix composites to make semi-truck trailers lighter and stronger to enable them to carry more cargo without increasing over-all weight. For example, Judy Riffle in chemistry and Jack Lesko of engineering science and mechanics are developing lower-cost interface materials that will strengthen composites.

Meanwhile, Wellspring manufactures flexible pipe that is dispensed and rewound onto spools in the process of maintaining off-shore oil-wells. Stronger, flexible pipe that can withstand extreme conditions and temperatures and resist corrosion by various elements is desired. To assist in this effort, David Kranbuehl, a center-affiliated faculty member at the College of William and Mary, has developed microsensing techniques that will sense wear of the composite materials used. Ken Reifsnider, deputy director of the Virginia Tech research center, has developed computer software that predicts the useful life of materials.