What is a Composite?
17 May 2023

Lees dit bericht in het Nederlands


To give us more insight into a composite, we will first have to define what exactly a composite is. There are several definitions in circulation that describe what a composite is:

  • Combination of a stronger and weaker material
  • A material composed of several parts
  • Combination of two materials
The definitions above give some problems. The first two leave us wondering why we would make such a combination, as no motivation is given for it. The third definition itself implies that an alloy, two-component adhesive or saline solution is a composite. The first and last definition also do not cover the load, because more materials may not be used. Therefore, the following definition has been defined:
A composite is a material construction, consisting of at least 2 macroscopically distinguishable materials that work together to achieve a better result.
The above objections are solved by using the new definition. However, this definition is somewhat complicated and needs explanation. When making a composite product, the material and construction are often produced at the same time. There is usually no use of a raw or unprocessed material that is then formed, turned and assembled into a construction. Instead, the structure and construction material are produced simultaneously in one process. That is why there is a “material construction”.

Composites often refer to (a variant of) the “materials triangle”. In this they show that the possibilities of creating a certain construction are strongly related to the material used and the production method.

The restriction that only “macroscopically distinguishable materials” are eligible, ensures that alloys, two-component adhesives and saline solutions are excluded. When we talk about composites, we are talking about fibers that are embedded in plastic, also known as fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP). The strength of the fibers is used to create a material that is stronger than the plastic itself.

Our focus is mainly on fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) for use in load-bearing structures. By “better performance” is meant that the correct use of composites can make the structure stronger, stiffer, more resistant to long-term loads, etc. than when using the individual materials. However, this does not mean that the construction will always be better than a construction made of another material.

* Nijssen, R. (2015). Composieten Basiskennis. Retrieved from Composites NL: https://compositesnl.nl/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Composieten-Basiskennis-3e-druk-NL-CNL.pdf