A new composite is currently being tested for use in rail carriages boasting an unusual combination. Based on EconCore’s honeycomb technology which in this case used rPET and a bio-resin, and reinforced with basalt fibres produced by Basaltex, the material is said to be highly rigid, with enhanced fire resistance, while offering all the lightweighting advantages of a honeycomb structure.
Basalt is a commonly occurring volcanic rock type. To produce fibres, basalt stones with a diameter of 10 µm and higher are heated to 14500 C, after which filaments are continuously extruded from the melt, a procedure similar to glass fibre production, but with the need for boric acid. According to Basaltex, next to their inherent low ecological footprint, basalt fibres offer excellent mechanical properties, fire and heat resistance and very good chemical resistance.
Used in combination with a bio-resin and an rPET honeycomb, the result is a sustainable and environmentally friendly product, unlike the majority of thermoset solutions in this type of application. The selected bio-resin is polyfurfuryl alcohol - 100% derived from a waste stream of sugar cane.
Tests have shown that the composite achieves the rigidity and safety, among others, in terms of enhanced fire resistance, demanded in rail carriage interior applications.
According to Wouter Verbouwe, Basaltex’s R&D manager, the product was specifically designed for railcarriages. “To have completed the testing of this new composite of basalt fibre is a major milestone. We are now introducing it to the industry.”
The EconCore-Basaltex composite is also far lighter than the traditional glass-reinforced panels widely used in train interiors. The sandwich panel could replace conventional panels in applications such as cladding panels, partitions, tables and flooring. The thermoset skin layers are rapidly cured at elevated temperature, resulting in short cycle times and enabling automated production.
Jef Delbroek, Project Engineer at EconCore added: “Honeycomb and stone? Some combinations don’t automatically come to mind, but this material solution could enable converters to combine fire safety, light-weighting and sustainability in an elegant way. We look forward to seeing how the railway industry will respond to this novel material combination and hope to arouse the interest of other industries as well.”
Next to rail carriage interiors, this new material combination could offer a solution wherever acombination of lightweight and fire resistance is required.