Research scientists at Bolton and Southampton Universities are working together to develop composite materials for ships to make them less vulnerable to fire.
The universities have been awarded £775,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to carry out the research, which begins this month and will run for three and a half years.
In addition to producing composite materials that will be lighter and cost less to produce than currently used materials, the researchers also plan to develop new resins, which will be less flammable than those currently used in the production of composite materials
They also plan to ensure that, when these new materials do reach combustion point, they produce minimum smoke and toxic products on burning
The materials will initially be developed for the ship’s superstructure. However, these could also find applications in other engineering arenas such as road, rail transportation and aeronautical applications.
The project has attracted collaborators from all sectors of the marine market − from materials suppliers (Scott Bader), ship builders (BVF) and boat yards (BVT) to operators (RNLI and MoD/Dstl/Royal Navy), and involves regulators (Lloyd’s Register and MoD) and statutory agencies (Maritime Coastguard Agency).
They will provide practical guidance on issues such as regulatory issues, boatyard production challenges and vessel operating issues that may impact on materials design and selection.
Prof Baljinder Kandola of the investigating team from the University’s Institute for Materials Research and Innovation said: ’Fire-retardant materials have been developed for many industries and we hope that shipping will be the next beneficiary. The materials we aim to develop could also have wider applications in the rail- and air-transport industries.’