Composite materials


Both glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) and carbon fibre composite are rigid thermoset materials. They are both materials made up of fibres set within a resin base. The resin makes the piece lightweight while the fibres give the material strength and rigidity.


GRP was developed during World War 2 but was not used in civilian life until the 1950s. Carbon fibre composite was developed in 1963 by Royal Aircraft Establishment.

Common uses

These composite materials are strong, lightweight and stiff, making them ideal for sporting and transportation applications. 1981 saw the first carbon fibre composite Formula 1 car, and the Boeing 747 Dreamliner was produced in 2007 with 50% carbon fibre composite.



Glass-reinforced plastic has started to be recycled in Germany to make cement. The glass elements are made of sand which is a major component of cement and the resin (often polyester) is used as an energy source.  With carbon fibre composite the resin is burnt off and the fibres reused but they do lose their strength when they are recycled.

Melamine formaldehyde >