Lifesaving lamposts

EUREKA, the pan-European network for market-oriented, industrial R&D has facilitated the creation of plastic lamp-posts that cause less damage on collision and could save hundreds of lives across Europe.

The collapsing posts, developed in EUREKA project E! 2534 THERMOPOLE, are able to absorb much of the force in a collision, saving the motorist from the full impact. In the UK alone, over 500 motorists are killed each year hitting roadside objects such as lampposts.

The THERMOPOLE team set out to create a lamp-post that could withstand the elements, including high winds, said Gerry Boyce, Director of the UK lead partner Euro Projects. ‘We then wanted that strength to fail when a car hits it, crumbling or hinging to absorb the impact forces and save the driver and its occupants.’ The team has succeeded, creating prototypes that are said to be stronger than steel, maintenance free and recyclable.

Buckling in the new lamp-posts is helped by the positioning of the access hatch, which is a feature of all lamp-posts. ‘We turned what could have been a weakness to our advantage,’ said Boyce. ‘The hatch becomes a built-in weak point over which the lamp-post can hinge when a car impacts.’

The project team built the posts from a thermoplastic composite that is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to the polyester resin currently used to reinforce fibreglass structures used in lamp-posts.

Danish partner Twinrov provided the key technology that replaces the resin with new thermoplastic materials. These are plastics that are solid at room temperature, but when heated they melt and can be moulded and remoulded around the glass fibres forming hollow shapes that are stronger than steel.

‘Thermoplastics are particularly interesting for Danish companies because we probably have the strictest health and safety laws governing the use of solvent-based resins,’ said Charlotte Olesen, Director of Twinrov.

Euro Projects has already set up a spin-off company, Safecomp, to develop the market for the new lamp-posts.

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