The winner of the competition is Lomold (Pty) Ltd, South Africa, for a collapsible glass fibre reinforced thermoplastic composite pallet box that is light, strong and recyclable. The company will receive a US$200 000 development award to help bring the application to market.

Willem Louw, group general manager for technology and development at Lomold, says the company will use the money to expand its production operations.

The global shipping container market is estimated at US$5 billion or 15 million units, reports Louw.

“The market for pallet boxes alone is said to be about 5 or 6 million units,” he says. “Our reinforced thermoplastic pallet boxes are attractive to end-users because the composite boxes will ship 2% more product per load, allow up to four times more empty boxes per return trip and are fully recyclable.”

Further awards

The winner of a $20 000 cash award in the idea category is Gauri Dutt Sharma of India, for the concept of glass fibre reinforced composite inter-modal shipping containers that are less expensive to make and weigh less than steel containers, helping to reduce fuel bills during transportation.

The idea from Gauri Dutt Sharma seeks to transform inter-modal shipping with glass reinforced composite non-structural panels in traditionally designed containers. This approach would be cost-competitive with standard containers made entirely with COR-TEN steel. Sharma estimates the market opportunity at 3 million containers annually.

“A container weight reduction of 12% could result in US$4.6 billion savings from ocean-liner transportation,” says Sharma. “Savings are also possible during the land portion of the container’s journey. Container trade accounts for 70% of total trade value.”

Student winners, who will receive $10 000 for each winning idea, are John Gangloff and Cedric Jacob of the University of Delaware, USA, for integrated structural composite fuel cells, and Leandro Henrique Grizzo of the University of São Carlos, Brazil, for long glass fibre polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pellet concentrate.

According to the students from the University of Delaware, integrated structural composite fuel cells will lower vehicle weight and provide higher specific power output. They will also significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing and assembly. The entry from the University of São Carlos proposed long glass fiber PVC for increased strength in low-cost products used in construction.

New applications for composites

The winners were announced at the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) COMPOSITES 2011 trade show in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, on 3 February.

“We are extremely pleased with the results of our first global competition seeking new applications for transforming the market to composite materials,” says Ashish Diwanji, vice president of innovation for the Owens Corning Composite Solutions Business.

“We received hundreds of entries from 30 countries around the world. They were thoughtful and reflected a great deal of interest in using modern materials to address some of society’s pressing issues. We selected 40 semi-finalists in the third quarter last year and narrowed the field to 16 finalists in December. The winning application is very exciting with huge global potential.”

Launched in April 2010, the Composite App Challenge offered the $200 000 commercial development award for a composite application that can be introduced by the end of 2012, and up to a total of $50 000 for composite ideas that address market needs, appear to be technically feasible and have a perceived market opportunity. One $20 000 award was available to anyone and up to three $10 000 awards were reserved for students. Individuals and teams were asked to submit applications and ideas in four categories – infrastructure durability; fuel efficiency; renewable energy; and protection from harm.

Owens Corning, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, USA, is a global producer of glass fibre reinforcements and engineered materials for composite systems and residential and commercial building materials.