Composite Materials (Encyclopedia of Science)
A composite material (or just composite) is a mixture of two or more materials with properties superior to the materials of which it is made. Many common examples of composite materials can be found in the world around us. Wood and bone are examples of natural composites. Wood consists of cellulose fibers embedded in a compound called lignin. The cellulose fibers give wood its ability to bend without breaking, while the lignin makes wood stiff. Bone is a combination of a soft form of protein known as collagen and a strong but brittle mineral called apatite.
Humans have been using composite materials for centuries, long before they fully understood the structures of such composites. The important building material concrete, for example, is a mixture of rocks, sand, and Portland cement. Concrete is a valuable building material because it is much stronger than any one of the individual components of which it is made. Interestingly enough, two of those components are themselves natural composites. Rock is a mixture of stony materials of various sizes, and sand is a composite of small-grained materials.
Reinforced concrete is a composite developed to further improve the strength of concrete. Steel rods embedded in concrete add both strength and flexibility to the concrete.
Cutting wheels designed for...
(The entire section is 837 words.)
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