With plastic coating fiberboard offers a softer and less flimsy coating for durability, yet it’s also more expensive than fiberglass and aluminum.
The good news is fiberboard isn’t just cheaper, it’s actually pretty darned durable too.
The new film is being used in the aerospace industry as a lightweight composite material that can be used in aerospace components like the composite parts for the first stage of space shuttles.
“It’s a great material for aerospace because it’s a high-strength plastic,” said Joe Schaffer, a aerospace materials engineer at the aerospace company Orbital ATK.
“A lot of the aerospace industries use fiberglass in a lot of their applications, so it makes sense that we should be using it as well.”
Fiberboard, which is made from polypropylene and other polymers, is lightweight and is made up of thousands of individual fibers.
It is strong, flexible and easy to peel.
“We’re going to be able to put fiberboard on the spacecraft and put it on the ground, so that’s great,” Schaffer said.
“But we’re going on the surface, and we’re really going to have to rely on the fiberglass composites being stronger than plastic.”
The lightweight composite technology is now being used on the ISS, but it’s the way to go for space.
NASA is already using fiberboard for insulation, and the space agency is also considering using it for construction materials and space stations.
“The composites we use are going to work in space, they are going for a lot more weight,” Schaff said.
The aerospace industry is now trying to use the fibers on the exterior of the ISS to make the station lighter.
The fibers could also be used for construction of the station itself, as the weight of the materials could make the structure difficult to move around.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about this stuff yet, and that’s the real beauty of fiberboard,” Schuff said.
While fiberboard is lighter than the other composite materials, it isn’t as durable.
Fiberboard has a very low melting point, so the composite is unlikely to stick to the surface of the spacecraft as easily as plastic, which can be brittle.
But Schaffer thinks that if fiberboard becomes more widely used in space stations, the material could be better able to withstand harsh conditions in space.
“You might see fibers that are able to resist a little bit more, but you might see some that are going a little better,” Schafer said.
For more information on the future of NASA and the ISS visit: http://www.nasa.gov/jsc/news/news_event.jsp?news_id=1617&type=jspnews