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Lightweight Materials

Lightweight structures have fulfilled their promise of helping the transportation system transition to sustainable energy by reducing the carbon footprint of hydrocarbon-using vehicles, such as aircraft, and by reducing vehicle weight, and thus increasing the energy efficiency of electric vehicles, and furthermore by enabling economical harvesting of wind energy. In fact, 100% of windmill blades are made of fiber-reinforced polymer. The utilization of fiber-reinforced composites continues to grow with applications in more industry sectors every day, which is a problem because these materials are not renewable or biodegradable.

For composite materials to become sustainable themselves, there is a need for developing sustainable composites, for example by using natural fibers and resins. Until that transition is made, we need to extend the lifespan, and thus reduce the use and eventual disposal of hydrocarbon-based materials, such as polymer-based composites, by developing better life prediction technologies and better structural health monitoring technology.

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