Subway ventilation panels

Engineered Syntactic Foam as Structural Material

Syntactic foams have long been used as buoyancy materials in subsea applications due to their extremely high hydrostatic strength and stiffness at relatively low densities.  This unique combination provides designers a source of lift for vehicles and structures operating in the deepest ocean environments.  Manned submarines, AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) all rely on syntactic foam in performance of their missions.

There are many other applications where the distinct properties of syntactic foam have also been employed.   Syntactics are excellent as low-to-moderate weight core materials for composite structures. The cellular structure of the material also makes them excellent thermal insulators, especially in situations where high strength may be required. Syntactic materials are utilized in transducers because the dielectric properties remain constant at depth.    As with most highly filled substances, the material is also dimensionally stable over a wide temperature range making it an ideal candidate as tooling for polymer or composite processing.

Challenging environments in the building and construction sectors are also areas where syntactic foam is now being used.  For example, syntactics are well-suited to the specific requirements of subway emergency ventilation panels.  Such panels must perform structurally but also be lightweight for ease of installation.  With the same strength as concrete at 20% of the weight, syntactic panels are cost-effective and highly efficient. The panel material must also be non-corrosive and resistant to water absorption over its lifetime.   Two additional properties are critical in this environment.  First, because the panels are used in an enclosed environment with direct human access, the material must pass stringent fire standards, most unusual for a product typically found hundreds or thousands of meters below the ocean surface.   Second, the need for clear radio communication in emergency tunnels is paramount for safety.  RF communication signal loss has been specified at less than 1.5 db over a wide frequency range. Syntactic panels are radio frequency wave transparent, thus meeting signal loss criteria.

We have been working on Low Flame, Smoke and Toxicity (LFST) products for use in civil infrastructure applications with new materials that have been tested and approved using ASTM methodology. Click here to see our time-elapsed video or get in touch with us to discuss your specific application.