The commercial manufacture of extruded wood-plastic composite (WPC) materials is well established in the United States and Canada with the largest percentage of product output being comprised of exterior decking and railing systems. Currently, there are other specialty products being produced by extrusion and/or injection molding, which include roof shingles, molding, decorative post caps, and fencing. A well-perceived need in the industry is the production of wood-plastic composite (WPC) materials for structural applications. Potential structural applications include material components for pier and pilings, bridges, retaining walls, and foundation elements. Material formulations for wood-plastic composites typically contain 40 to 60 percent wood flour by weight, 30 to 50 percent polymer, and 5 to 10 percent additives. Transitioning WPCs into structural uses will involve research into extrusion of larger profile sections, hybridization with synthetic fiber reinforced polymer materials, understanding durability of the products in exterior load carrying applications, demonstrating the structural WPC products in real-world applications, code development, and design standards for structural WPC materials. Only limited research has addressed the structural application of WPCs so far. Great potential exists for structural uses of WPCs in transportation applications based on the perceived success of these products in residential and commercial construction. However, fundamental research is needed to affect the structural application of WPCs.
The key project objective is to conduct fundamental research investigating the structural use of extruded wood-plastic composite materials for transportation applications.