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Q & A: What is a composite material?

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Most recent answer: 08/09/2015
What is composite materials
- PeeCee (age 15)

A composite material consists of heterogenous mixture of 2 or more different materials, giving the resulting material characteristics different from all the individual constituents. Composite is an adjective coined for a family of different materials, so the exact composition depends on the conditions. An example of this could be reinforced concrete commonly used as a building material. It has two main parts: steel rods/nets and cement (which generates an artificial rock of CaCO3). Cement is quite robust against compression, but not so if a tensile stress is applied. Steel (or metals in general) is very vulnerable to compressive forces (the rods would buckle), but reasonably durable against tension. Their combination makes a material that can withstand both tensions and compressions.

Wood is another ubiquitious composite: cellulose fibers embedded in a medium mostly consisting of lignin. I think we can also consider your bones and cartilage as natural composite materials. Depending on the purpose, the constituents may range from carbon fibers to metals and ceramic.


(published on 08/09/2015)

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