FRP or fiber-reinforced plastic is a polymer matrix that has been reinforced with fibers like all composite materials, FRP combines the qualities of both the components to make a superior combination. The plastic by itself is weak, but when combined with fibers, it achieves a far superior tensile strength and stiffness.
These qualities enable us to mould FRP into pipes. FRP pipes are widely seen in industrial, commercial and residential properties. Because of its unique properties it finds wide usage in a range of fields, from aerospace to the construction industry. Although FRP is sometime confused with simple thermoplastic pipes like PVC, it is very different. The additional reinforcement of fibers give it a completely new character.
Although FRP is seen as a modern day product, it actually has a pretty old history. The history is FRP begins when scientists and entrepreneurs realized the existence of polymers and decided to blend two physically different elements for a composite element. The first such composite polymer was bake lite, introduced in 1909.
But it was later in the 1930s that interest in fiber reinforced plastic grew, thanks to the aviation industry. Soon various structures were made, from sheets to boats and planes. But it was still very much at an experimental stage. It was only after production technology and new products were invented/discovered that the mass production of plastics became possible, eventually surpassing steel.
Centrifugal casing and then filament winding brought in the industrial processing if FRP pipes. The process was refined to enable the production of small diameter pipes. Soon production picked up to come up with industrial quantities. It proved to be a big boon for industries like the oils industry where steel was proving too susceptible to corrosion. Soon the production and output was standardized with national and international standards.
FRP Pipes Today
Today fiber reinforced plastics have become so commonplace that they are almost a part of our landscape! They are used in many different ways gratings, cable trays, pipes, roofs, ducts, doors and different equipments. FRP pipes, once used mainly in the oil industry, have grown far and wide beyond that.
FRP pipe has high usability in a range of applications, from carrying water distribution networks to carrying flammable liquids. Let us look at some of these fields:
In wastewater management: Sewer water is highly corrosive and alternative pipe materials such as concrete, steel and aluminum is eventually corroded by its continuous flow. FRP, on the other hand, has a high resistance to such corrosive liquids. Although concrete still remains more prevalent here, FRP pipes are slowly making a wider appearance.
Oil and gas industry: What makes an FRP pipe ideal here is its high resistance to corrosion, ability to withstand pressure and its imperviousness to environmental factors like extreme temperatures. Unlike steel and aluminum, FRP does not get corroded over time while carrying crude oil and other such gases and oils. It can withstand high pressure applications that can go up to 4000 psi. It means that we can use it for carrying highly compressed liquids and gases. Since oil is often excavated in rather inhospitable terrains, such as under seabed, in desert or in the Arctic Circle, the FRP pipe’s resistance to environmental conditions also becomes important. It is often the preferred conduit in these extreme conditions. It can be buried under the earth or underwater without any fear of corrosion. Hence, FRP pipes have wide functionality in oil exploration, excavation, recovery and distribution.
Water distribution network: FRP pipes are already a common sight in many properties. Their light weight and durability means that these can easily be used to fit water systems in residential and commercial properties. However, they are yet have a better penetration in the municipal water systems where steel and concrete are used more often. But FRP’s ability to withstand corrosion and hydraulic pressure means that it can be a more suitable alternative. Many FRP pipe manufacturers are now working on facilitating a FRP pipe-based infrastructure.
ConclusionMany manufacturers are now focused on the future of the FRP pipe. Given its many advantages, FRP can have a much deeper penetration in a number of industries and fields. Its anti-corrosive properties coupled with its high durability makes it ideal for carrying a number of liquids in extremely inhospitable terrains.