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Tougher Composites, Thanks To Braids

Developments to Watch


LAMINATED COMPOSITES, USED IN EVERYTHING FROM THE skins of fighter planes to golf-club shafts, have one big flaw: They tend to come apart when the resin holding their layers together cracks under stress. Borrowing from the ancient art of braiding, Albany International Corp. in Albany, N.Y., has come up with a way to make laminated composites stronger. It's common to braid layers of a composite separately, but Albany International goes further by braiding each layer to adjoining ones. Anchored together, they can't slide past one another like cards in a deck--the leading cause of cracking in laminate resins.

The company's Multilayer Interlock Braid technology is starting to find applications, according to the inventor, David S. Brookstein, who remains a consultant to Albany International after becoming dean of the School of Textiles & Materials Technology at Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science. The U.S. Army has used some of the prototype material to build inflatable arches for a portable hangar. And Brookstein says the company hopes to work with a large medical-device company to adapt the process to make a hip implant whose stiffness could be customized.EDITED BY EMILY T. SMITH

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