Broader use of polymer matrix composites requires concentrated research into environmental issues, according to an academic soon to receive a major industry award. "Environmental issues are not as critical today because of low volumes, but they will become more important," said John W. Gillespie Jr., director of the University of Delaware's Center for Composite Materials in Newark, Del.
Designs for composite projects need to consider the environment in dealing with process, material and recycling issues, he said in a telephone interview.
Gillespie has been selected to receive the 2000 J.H. "Jud" Hall Composites Manufacturing Award.
New composite applications, in applications like bridges, must be affordable and last longer to reduce both acquisition and maintenance costs, he said.
"For the infrastructure, cost is always going to be a major concern vs. steel and concrete."
Gillespie has guided development of manufacturing process technologies such as diffusion-enhanced adhesion and coinjection resin transfer molding.
He advocates electron-beam curing as more friendly to the environment than traditional autoclave curing.
"Our work is focused on preserving e-beam curing benefits while finding ways to toughen systems," he said. E-beam processing requires radiation-curable materials that resist twisting and cutting forces.
The 36,000-square-foot Delaware center's manufacturing science laboratory has capabilities to synthesize resins, work with sensors on material health monitoring and flow-and-cure patterns, deal with fiber optics and conduct mechanical testing. The center, which marked its 25th anniversary in November, employs about 24 full time.
The center's annual expenditures exceed $5 million. The federal government supplies about 60 percent, industry 30 percent and the state of Delaware, 10 percent.
"A lot of our work at the university is looking to the future," Gillespie said.
Collaboration with industry teams has led to moving technology from academia to the private sector.
The Composites Manufacturing Association of the Dearborn, Mich.-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers will present the Jud Hall award Feb. 24 in Newport Beach, Calif., during SME's Composites Manufacturing & Tooling 2000 conference and exhibition.
The award is given annually and recognizes an individual for leadership, technical developments, patents or educational activities.
Gillespie has done research on polymer matrix composites since 1978. He joined the center in 1981, became technical director in 1996 and was named director effective Jan. 1. He holds several patents and has written more than 325 papers and publications.