Advanced Engineered Wood Composites
Technology used to develop hybrid wood and
nonwood composite building material is at the heart of the University of
Maine's Advanced Engineered Wood Composites (AEWC) Center. It all
started with fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) timbers, right. Today, the
center is a world leader in the development of low-cost,
high-performance composites of wood and wood by-products, natural and
synthetic fibers, concrete and plastics that can be used in new
Patent-pending delta strand lumber developed at AEWC uses pulpwood-grade
sticks to create lumber suitable for structural framing. The composite
is two to three times stronger than solid wood.
In Maine from 1991–98, AEWC used fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) wood
composites to construct more than 20 demonstration bridges, ranging from
22 to 192 feet long. AEWC engineers also developed the world's longest
engineered wood pier built with FRP panels, designed and fabricated on
campus. The panel system delivers strength equal to concrete, but weighs
66 percent less. Civil engineering graduate student Melanie Bragdon
oversaw the construction of the 167-foot Milbridge Pier, above, which
opened in 2001. The pier was named America's best timber bridge in 2006
by the American Institute of Timber Construction — The Engineered Wood
Association, the U.S. Forest Service and Roads & Bridges Magazine.
The U.S. Army is working in partnership with AEWC to develop a Modular
Ballistic Protection System, employing lightweight composite panels that
will provide troops in a tent camp environment with superior protection
from mortar attacks. Two patents are pending.
Composite arches developed at AEWC can be inflated on site and filled
with concrete to rapidly construct short-span bridges, hangers, tunnels
and other structures. The arches are lightweight and easy to transport.
Two patents are pending.
The U.S. Navy's high-speed Mark V Special Operations Craft could one day
have advanced composite hulls developed by AEWC researchers to reduce
shock and vibration problems now caused by the aluminum hulls. AEWC
engineers are working with the Office of Naval Research and Hodgdon
Yachts in East Boothbay, Maine. The research and development has already
led to the creation of a new spin-off company, Maine Marine
Manufacturing LLC, which infused an 83-foot-long carbon composite Mark V
hull this past August. U.S. Navy photo
Composite roof systems combining framing, insulation and sheathing into
a single product have the potential to be used in residential
construction. The panels have been used on campus in the construction of
the Child Study Center addition and the Student Innovation Center.
One of AEWC's eight patents is for an FRP composite panel, specifically
designed to withstand hurricane-force winds better than conventional
building materials. Currently, 15 other AEWC patents are pending.
The center is an international leader in biopolymer extrusion. This
process combines fibers from sawdust or other materials (i.e. rice,
flax, recycled tires) with plastics (i.e. polypropylene from recycled
soda bottles) to produce the next generation of construction materials.
Currently, AEWC is working with the U.S. Coast Guard to develop
structural biopolymer composites that are superior in a corrosive marine
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