Summary
Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP; also called fibre-reinforced polymer, or in American English fiber) is a composite material made of a polymer matrix reinforced with fibres. The fibres are usually glass (in fibreglass), carbon (in carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer), aramid, or basalt. Rarely, other fibres such as paper, wood, boron, or asbestos have been used. The polymer is usually an epoxy, vinyl ester, or polyester thermosetting plastic, though phenol formaldehyde resins are still in use. FRPs are commonly used in the aerospace, automotive, marine, and construction industries. They are commonly found in ballistic armour and cylinders for self-contained breathing apparatuses. Bakelite was the first fibre-reinforced plastic. Leo Baekeland had originally set out to find a replacement for shellac (made from the excretion of lac bugs). Chemists had begun to recognize that many natural resins and fibres were polymers, and Baekeland investigated the reactions of phenol and formaldehyde. He first produced a soluble phenol-formaldehyde shellac called "Novolak" that never became a market success, then turned to developing a binder for asbestos which, at that time, was moulded with rubber. By controlling the pressure and temperature applied to phenol and formaldehyde, he found in 1905 he could produce his dreamed-of hard mouldable material (the world's first synthetic plastic): bakelite. He announced his invention at a meeting of the American Chemical Society on 5 February 1909. The development of fibre-reinforced plastic for commercial use was being extensively researched in the 1930s. In the UK, considerable research was undertaken by pioneers such as Norman de Bruyne. It was particularly of interest to the aviation industry. Mass production of glass strands was discovered in 1932 when Games Slayter, a researcher at Owens-Illinois accidentally directed a jet of compressed air at a stream of molten glass and produced fibres. A patent for this method of producing glass wool was first applied for in 1933.
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