BASF has signed an exclusive cooperation agreement with the British-Canadian company Intelligent Engineering Ltd. (IE) for further development of the innovative Sandwich Plate System™ (SPS). The SPS technology, jointly developed by BASF Group company Elastogran and IE, is rapidly becoming established in the shipbuilding industry for the repair and construction of ship segments. New SPS applications for the civil engineering market are now being developed and a SPS licensee has already completed an initial reference project with the construction of a road bridge in Canada.
“We responded to the needs of our customers in the construction industry,” said Dr. John Feldmann, member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF Aktiengesellschaft, when asked to explain the background to the new application for the high-tech material. “Our intention was to develop a genuine alternative to conventional steel bridge construction that would be more cost-effective and of the highest quality. We achieved precisely that with SPS.”
Because of their sandwich structure – steel-polyurethane-steel – SPS components are much less susceptible to corrosion than conventional constructions. SPS structures are also lighter and faster to build and also offer built-in protection against fire and vibration. In the case of the road bridge, built by SPS licensee Canam Manac Group Inc., in Saint Martin de Beauce, Quebec, Canada, SPS reduced the weight of the 22 meter bridge deck by 60 percent compared with concrete. And there are no negative effects on the stability of the bridge construction – on the contrary. “Our SPS polyurethane is extremely stable and does not become brittle with age. This makes SPS structures more durable than conventional solutions,” said Georg Knoblauch, who is in charge of SPS technology development at Elastogran.
This reference project in Canada opens up a second high-growth SPS market for BASF and IE. A number of bridge projects are currently under development around the world. For example, ThyssenKrupp Technologies, a SPS licensee, is currently evaluating the feasibility of the system for the construction of mobile bridge elements suitable for use at roadwork sites. SPS elements for this application are currently being subjected to repetitive stress testing at BASF’s laboratories in Ludwigshafen. The Steel Construction Department of the Aachen University of Technology (RWTH) is monitoring the test process as an independent scientific institution.
Elastogran and Intelligent Engineering are also collaborating on other applications where the outstanding material properties of the patented technology can be utilized. For instance, SPS offers many potential benefits for the construction of sports stadiums and arenas. “SPS bleachers or stands are 70 percent lighter than conventional concrete structures and are very effective at absorbing the vibrations induced when thousands of fans jump to their feet to celebrate a goal,” explained Knoblauch. This weight saving may also help in the design of earthquake-resistant buildings.
BASF is a world leader in technology for polyurethane specialties. The Elastogran Group is responsible for BASF’s polyurethanes business in Europe. BASF and Elastogran expect increasing SPS applications to result in substantial growth in the global market for polyurethane specialties. Polyurethanes are versatile plastics with a huge range of applications and their properties can be customized to suit individual uses. Polyurethane products are used in the automotive industry, for thermal insulation in construction and refrigeration technology, in the electronics industry, in the manufacture of shoes and furniture as well as in sports and leisure articles.