Bridge and other infrastructure failures have been generating significant headlines in the United States. The German state Hesse has a new idea: plastic composite bridges. Europe’s’ first road bridge made of fiber-reinforced thermoset polymer opened recently, spanning a federal highway north of Frankfurt. The initial cost of the materials is higher, but there are long-term maintenance benefits. The pultruded polymer structure is also less than one-fourth the weight of a pre-stressed concrete superstructure. It’s not a giant bridge – just 89 feet long by 16 feet wide. It weighs 80 metric tons.
Some big problems had to solved, including adhesive bonding of the sections and testing. Materials being evaluated for bridge construction include glass and carbon fibers and matrix polymers of vinyl ester, epoxy and polyester. Officials say the new German bridge, located in the town of Friedberg, is expected to last 50 years without repairs. The bridge is made of FRP polymer glued to steel sections. The bridge was prefabricated and assembled on site in one day.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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