UMaine’s AEWC Receives Award for Composite Building Material

Contact: Aimee Dolloff at (207) 581-3777

ORONO, Maine — For the second year in a row, the University of Maine’s AEWC, Advanced Structures & Composites Center, has been recognized as an industry leader by the American Composites Manufacturers Association.

The Center received two awards last year for its blast resistant tent panels made of composite material, and this year took home the American Composites Excellence Award for Most Creative Application for its blast resistant building construction material. This is the top composites conference in North America and was attended by about 3,000 industry representatives. The ACE Award is presented for the most creative application of composite materials. 

“We are humbled to have received one of the top four composites industry awards in North America for 2009,” says Habib Dagher, director of the AEWC Advanced Structures & Composites Center. “The composites industry continues to recognize UMaine as a top leader in innovation and technology.”
This award is presented to the entry that demonstrates the most creative application of composites materials that is imaginative and innovative.

The building panels developed at UMaine are intended for use by the Army for modular building structures that are blast and disaster resistant. The technology involves a coating applied to wood that allows is to absorb five to seven times more energy in  blast or in a hurricane. Not only can the panels be made from recycled materials, but additional composites can be made by recycling the building panels once they no longer are needed.

“There’s a whole range of things it could be used for,” says Larry Parent, AEWC’s senior research and development program manager.

In addition to the ACE excellence award, one of the three UMaine students who attended the conference and presented their work also was recognized by the American Composites Manufacturers Association for his work.

Graduate student Daniel Alvarez was acknowledged by the ACMA for having the best technical paper in the green composites track. The paper is co-authored by Dagher, civil engineering associate professors Roberto Lopez-Anido and William G. Davids, and wood science and technology Professor Douglas Gardner. It features a UMaine-patented technology for building sea walls and other waterfront retaining structures. The sea walls are made with recycled plastics and sawdust, and can be 100 percent recycled even after 100 years in operation. 

The patented material is intended to replace steel, is resistant to corrosion and can be made using new or recycled materials. Each panel is sturdy enough to be driven into the ground, but is light enough to be lifted by one person. The panels easily connect to one another to form a continuous retaining wall or sea wall against almost any landscape.

ACMA represents 850 of approximately 3000 composites manufacturers and suppliers to the industry. Last year the association awarded UMaine’s AEWC with the Best of the Best Award, recognizing the center’s Modular Ballistic Protection Panels as the top composites product for 2007. The tent panels also were popular among those attending the conference, who crowned the project with the People’s Choice Award. 

“Winning the top industry awards two years in a row is a like winning the Super Bowl two years in a row,” says Dagher. 

In addition to UMaine’s win, another Maine entity, Kenway Corporation of Augusta received another of the top four industry ACE Awards at the recent conference. 

“Maine came back from the top composites conference in North America with two of the top four industry awards, and this attests to the creativity of the composites industry in our state,” says Dagher.

“This means we’ll have to win again next year,” Parent says.