The success of these materials is due to their high strength and low weight, as well as their unrivalled ability to be ‘tailored’ to specific applications. For example, by tuning how bicycle forks are constructed, we can create a fork that is very stiff in one direction for accurate steering, but allows some flexibility in another direction, to create a more comfortable ride.
Composite materials like carbon fibre are often seen as materials of the future, but the truth is that lots of different types of composite materials are already used to make things you probably use every day – from bikes, golf clubs, tennis racquets and medical products, to aircraft, cars, and even bridges.
However, where carbon fibre and other composite materials lose out to metal is that they tend to be quite brittle, like glass. We’d call metals like steel and aluminium ductile – they tend to bend, twist and distort before they break completely. The brittleness of carbon fibre means that much like breaking a window, their failure is sudden, and often dramatic.
Our research aims to explore how we can achieve the best of both worlds – the high strength, low weight and ‘tuneability’ that carbon fibre provides, with the ductility and more ‘gentle’ failure of metals.
Want to know more?
Take a look around our site to find out more about this project and what we’ve been up to, including where we are going next and some highlights. If you’d like more general information on composites in general, check out our Composites Hub.