Matter & Energy

Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.

Composite Material

Composite Material, substance that is made up of a combination of two or more different materials. A composite material can provide superior and unique mechanical and physical properties because it combines the most desirable properties of its constituents while suppressing their least desirable properties. For example, a glass-fiber reinforced plastic combines the high strength of thin glass fibers with the ductility and chemical resistance of plastic; the brittleness that the glass fibers have when isolated is not a characteristic of the composite. The opportunity to develop superior products for aerospace, automotive, and recreational applications has sustained the interest in advanced composites. Currently composites are being considered on a broader basis—for applications that include civil engineering structures such as bridges and freeway pillar reinforcement; and for biomedical products, such as prosthetic devices.

Composite materials usually consist of synthetic fibers embedded within a matrix, a material that surrounds and is tightly bound to the fibers. The most widely used type of composite material is polymer matrix composites (PMCs). PMCs consist of fibers made of a ceramic material such as carbon or glass embedded in a plastic matrix. Typically, the fibers make up about 60 percent of a polymer matrix composite by volume. Metal matrices or ceramic matrices can be substituted for the plastic matrix to provide more specialized composite systems called metal matrix composites (MMCs) and ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), respectively.