Matrix Syntactic Foam
Lighter and stronger
Matrix Composites & Engineering is home to the world's largest syntactic foam manufacturing facility and is considered a world leader in the design and manufacture of syntactic foam solutions. Primarily developed for use in subsea buoyancy applications, syntactic foam can now be found in a wide range of applications within the defence, civil & infrastructure and mining sectors.
What is syntactic foam?
Syntactic foam is a high strength, low density material generally formed by the binding together of hollow spheres in a polymer matrix. Two types of spheres are used – microscopic glass bubbles (approximate Ø20-80 μm) and larger composite or injection moulded macrospheres (approx. Ø3-50 mm). Epoxy resin has become the de facto standard for the binder, however, other materials such as phenolics and PVC can also be used as a lightweight filler in order to reduce the density and stiffness of the foam.
A simple way to classify syntactic foam is to consider the number of different phases within the final composite. In a ‘two-phase’ syntactic only microscopic glass bubbles are used. In a ‘three-phase’ syntactic, microscopic and macroscopic spheres are combined, providing a much lower density solution.
- Stable material properties: Matrix foams have been deployed in applications that assume a 40-year design life.
- High strength at low density: Matrix foams provide deep water uplift beyond 4000 m.
- Excellent acoustic properties: Matrix foams have been tailored to match acoustic requirements.
- High energy absorption: Matrix foams provide impact protection in addition to buoyancy for drilling risers.
- Deep sea buoyancy: the outstanding stiffness and strength of syntactic foams coupled with impermeability to sea water and low density make it the ideal material to generate buoyancy in the deep ocean.
- Cyrogenic insulation: combination of high compressive strength and low thermal conductivity make syntactic foams an ideal material for cyrogenic insulation within the LNG sector.
- Impact protection: during an impact event such as a larged dropped object, single phase syntactics progressively crush and absorb the impact energy, signficantly reducing the force of impact which protects underlying infrastructure from damage.
- Tuned acoustics: acoustic properties of a syntactic – and hence its acoustic performance – can be tuned to suit the application by changing the microsphere and macrosphere structures within.
- Shock isolation: single phase syntactic acts as low density impedance barrier to reflect shockwaves created from explosions.
- Lightweight concrete: replacing sand and aggregate in cement with syntactic macrospheres and microspheres results in the formation of light weight concrete. The resulting material reproduces the strength of concrete at a fraction of the density, reducing the weight of the structure without sacrificing load bearing capability.