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.

Key benefits

  • 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.

Applications

  • 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.

Publications

Learn more

If you would like to learn more about Matrix Syntactic Foam, please contact us on +61 8 9412 1200 and ask to speak to one of our syntactic foam specialists.