The first real advance in epoxy resins in years comes from 3M and
improves the performance of carbon-fiber composites, resulting in more
durable, lighter-weight sports gear.
Carbon-fiber composites have been around for decades, following the
evolution that changed tennis racquets, for example, from wood, to
steel, to aluminum, and titanium in the 1970s and, in the 1980s, to a
carbon-fiber composite. A few seasons from now, the composites used in
high-end racquets, fishing rods, bicycle components and cross-country
ski poles—as well as masts and booms of racing yachts—may be transformed
by a recently launched epoxy resin developed by 3M.
The new technology relies on 3M’s understanding of the mixing and
compounding of high-viscosity resins, which has evolved out of the
company’s efforts in structural adhesives. The key to the new resin from
3M, known as the ‘Matrix Resin,’ is the addition of a large proportion
(about 40 percent) of metallic oxides, such as silica, in particles that
are 100 nanometers or less in size.
“The addition of these nanomaterials creates a fundamental
improvement in the composite,” explained Doug Seim, business development
manager, 3M Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division. “The end products
are 25 to 100 percent stronger, and they’re also harder and less likely
One of the first uses of the new nanocomposite is in sporting goods
because that market places a high value on strength-to-weight ratios.
Sporting goods also offer a short design cycle: materials for sports
equipment can be tested and specified in a year or two, while materials
for aviation, for example, can take 10 years or more.
“It’s easy for manufacturers to replace their current resin with this
new material. It’s basically a drop-in technology,” Seim said.
The team’s work is only beginning as the new resin is expected to
show up in such diverse industries as wind energy in turbine blades; and
transportation, where it could help create stronger, lighter-weight
vehicles. The new resin also is expected to work with other composite
manufacturing technologies and currently is designed for use in
pre-impregnated carbon-fiber tapes.