Exel Composites manufactures flax fibre profiles for bio-based Dutch bridge
Exel Composites has supplied 6 km of bio-based composite profiles for an innovative bio-based bridge in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, the first viaduct in the world to be renovated using bio-based materials. Exel's structural profiles, manufactured using flax fibre reinforcement and bio-based resin, were employed to create the bridge's eye-catching side screens. The Zoomland viaduct crosses the A58 highway to the east of Bergen op Zoom. It forms part of a new cycling and walking route and connects two regions of a nature reserve, providing a 'fauna passage' for wildlife. As part of its vision for a sustainable, circular economy for its city, the Bergen op Zoom council has already implemented bio-based materials in a number of projects.
The bio-based renovation of the Zoomland viaduct represents a further step forward in this strategy. Ensuring the performance and durability of natural materials in an outdoor environment is technically challenging and to realise this goal a multidisciplinary team was assembled, including construction expert Dura Vermeer, LOLA Landscape Architects, and Millvision, a business consultancy specialising in bio-based projects. Exel Composites, offering 50 years of expertise in the design of composite solutions to meet the most challenging of applications, was a clear choice for the manufacture of the bio-based screens at either side of the bridge.
A strong visual element of the design, the shape of the screens symbolises the gently rolling hills of the surrounding countryside. The poles used to create the screens vary in height up to 4.5 m and each consists of six pultruded composite box profiles, 90 mm x 25 mm in cross section. Exel therefore supplied profiles in a variety of lengths to create the required shape. The company also met the project's specifications for colour matching, a challenge when using natural materials, and surface quality. In contrast to the majority of industrial applications, where the smoothest of surfaces is sought, a natural look was necessary for the bridge profiles.
Exel supplied the lightweight composite profiles to contractor Dura Vermeer, which assembled them on steel frames and then transported them to the site, where they were installed over three nights. The renovation also involved replacing the existing steel guide rails with wooden versions, installing bio-based barriers and information panels, and broadening the fauna passage. The bridge was officially opened to the public in December 2017.
Exel Composites is seeing growing interest in bio-based composite solutions as organisations around the world move towards a more sustainable future.
"We are proud to have been part of the team behind this new bridge, which demonstrates the potential of bio-based materials," states Gert de Roover, Head of Sales Western Europe, Exel Composites." Exel Composites has been active in experimenting and testing bio materials for many years and we see bio-based as an important part of our materials toolkit going forward for more sustainable ecosystems," continues Kari Loukola, SVP Sales & marketing, Exel Composites.
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