International forum on composites in Luxembourg, 6 December 2012

The International Plus Composites Forum, which took place at the Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg, showed the latest developments in research, new applications, and regulations in the fields building and transportation. It closed with a comprehensive overview on the composites markets. Around 160 participants attended the forum, which started with a plenary session and a round table with keynote presentations on composite materials for future aircrafts with contributions from Airbus, Alstom and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Six Workshop sessions on composites followed and focused on ecocomposites, matrix and nanocomposites, quality control, fire regulations, design and industrialization, as well as life cycle.

A series of presentations dealt with European and industry projects on biosourced materials for use in automotive and train interiors. The materials and composites are based on flax fibers, bio-epoxy resins, and various polymers such as polylactid acid (PLA). One main application is in electrical urban cars for reducing weight and costs in an environmentally friendly context.

The use of flame retardant (FR) unsaturated polyester composites for use in rolling stock such as trains front ends, side walls, stairs, window frames and the related French and European fire protection standards were the focus of papers given in the workshop 6 on composites and fire regulations. Fire safety requirements according to the French standard NF F 16-101 and the new European standard EN 45545-2, which will be introduced beginning of 2013, were presented and the fire safety levels achieved discussed. The new European requirements are more stringent than the existing national ones so that the formulations have to be adjusted accordingly. A particular problem is smoke development and toxicity testing: the smoke density requirements are mostly not met with the conventional formulations based on halogenated flame retardants and aluminium hydroxide. In addition, the new toxicity requirements impede the use of halogenated FRs, as the limit values set for HBr and HCl are mostly exceeded. New formulations based on phosphorous and nitrogen-based, as well as on inorganic and synergistic FR systems are currently developed and some of them already meet EN 45545-2 Hazard Level HL2 for railways exterior and interior panels.

The forum ended with a presentation on the composites market. In 2011, the worldwide composite market amounted to 8.7 Mio. tons with a value of 77 billion Euros (Americas 36 %, Europe 33 % and Asia 31 %). The composites market is expected to grow by 4.7 % until 2015. The composites growth drivers are wind energy applications and aeronautics. These applications will require the use of new advanced flame retardant systems.

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