Structure yields new wood composite technology

Wood is often described as “nature’s composite.” It’s composed of long cellulose fibres that are aligned along the direction of stress—and those fibres are all bound together by a lignin (organic polymer) matrix. If you substituted the word “cellulose” with “carbon fibre,” and then exchanged the word “lignin” with “epoxy,” you would be describing a basic carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite!

With that in mind, how is it even possible to improve upon wood? Nature is the best designer, after all. Well, wood is great, but it’s pretty difficult to make curved geometries that maintain the natural strength of wood. That may be about to change, thanks to a company in Austria that has developed a wood-carbon fibre composite system. And the best part about this system is that it’s modular, so it can be assembled into large spanning structures.

And whereas nature relies on evolution to determine what works and what doesn’t, Austrian architectural design firm Digital Architects relies on composite simulation to give its product evolution a kick-start.

The Digital Architects composite system comprises several layers of wood that are ply bonded to carbon fibre layers (as shown in the photo). This concept was first developed for the façade of the new Varna Library, located in Varna, Bulgaria. Since then, the system has evolved and the construction process used to assemble these panels into larger structures is now known as the active grid monocoque (AGM) method. These panels can be assembled to form structures of all sizes, providing thin, high-spanning structures, with three-dimensional curves and high strength-to-weight ratios.

To learn more about AGM and composite simulation, click here.

Source: Timber Architecture & Constructions News, www.engineering.com

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