The new material dubbed Fibre Reinforced Aluminium is stronger than existing aluminium whilst being cheaper and lighter than steel. The new material can also be used with insulation panels designed to produce a building envelope system that is safer, cheaper, more energy-efficient and easier to mount. The project is now undergoing its final phase and is expected to complete in 2015.
Fibre Reinforced Aluminium can be used for a wide range of applications primarily in construction as an alternative to steel and cement, and also in electronic products, automobiles, aircrafts, building materials, thus it has the potential to significantly increase aluminium’s global applications.
The new material is a mixture of carbon fibre and aluminium, when used together with a phase-change material, it creates a smart building envelope system which will effectively reduce indoor temperature fluctuation, and half the labor costs and construction time compared to conventional systems built mainly from steel and cement.
Prof Yui-bun Chan from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and lead researcher on the project said;
Aluminium is a light-weight and rust-resistant material. However, its use in construction today is confined largely to window frames due to its soft texture. On the other hand, steel is strong with high loading but is heavy, expensive and prone to rust.
The research team has managed to change the composition of carbon fibre by using nano technology, which allowed it to perfectly integrate with other substances like aluminium. This breakthrough is set to create a whole range of new materials with much wider applications.
The research is part of a five-year joint project with the aim to strengthen scientific and educational ties between Russia and Hong Kong. Aside from Prof Chan’s research, the US$1.5 million collaboration also covers an exchange award and a scholarship program for university students in Hong Kong and Russia, and a UC RUSAL President’s Forum that brings the world’s most renowned speakers to Hong Kong.