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19th June 2018, Huntingdon

Biocomposite resin for rail panel

This new biocomposite door leaf product has been specifically designed and fire rated for both overground and underground rail use. © TRB Lightweight Structures

A new biocomposite resin based-carbon fibre reinforced sandwich panel door leaf with a 100% recycled foam core has been developed by TRB Lightweight Structures, of Huntingdon, UK.

It has been specifically designed and fire rated for both overground and underground rail use – the composite structural system easily passes BS 6853 and BS 476, as well as being EN 45545 HL3 compliant.

TRB can now offer the rail industry a sustainable composite material option for carriage door leaves at a comparable cost to aluminium-bonded alternatives, with a 35% weight saving.

The design and engineering team at TRB has worked closely with a resin partner to develop the new, proprietary carbon fibre compatible bio prepreg resin. Key criteria was that the new system had to be highly sustainable and enable it to cost effectively manufacture lighter weight composite parts that would meet even the most demanding fire, smoke and toxic fumes (FST) specifications in subterranean rail applications.

The new ‘bio’ prepreg, which is non-toxic and does not use volatile organic solvents, is based on a polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) resin derived from a renewable alcohol produced from a natural waste bi-product from refined sugar production.

The foam core used in the rail door leaf composite structure is produced from 100% recycled consumer plastic. It delivers the desired overall material properties performance of the sandwich panel construction when used in combination a woven carbon fibre fabric on both sides and the bio resin prepreg. Other matrix design options for other applications using glass fibres, natural fibres, or aramid fibres can be custom made by TRB. Depending on rail customer needs, door leaves are supplied with a gelcoat, finish painted or primed ready to paint.

 “We are extremely pleased with the overall performance data for the new biocomposite carbon fibre prepreg sandwich panel system, in particular the FST specifications achieved,” said Lyndon Newman, chief engineer for TRB. “In the 30 years I have been in the industry I have never seen such impressive fire performance test results for a non-phenolic based thermoset system, achieving the BS standard so comfortably. Our PFA bio resin prepreg has fire retardant properties greater than phenolics, plus excellent temperature and chemical resistance.

The TRB biocomposite CFRP door leaf product, which has a 40 year life cycle expectancy, is more robust than its aluminium equivalent, has superior fatigue resistance and low maintenance costs. Due to the significant weight reduction, it requires a less heavy duty door operating system and provides a number of cost saving benefits to rail operators, including reduced energy consumption per journey and less track wear and tear. Additionally, it provides the opportunity for shorter station dwell times. For Transport for London, this has been calculated as a way to improve its daily underground service.

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