According to Gerry Boyce, Director of the UK lead partner Euro Projects, "the THERMOPOLE project team "set out to create a lamp-post that could withstand the elements, including high winds, and we then wanted that strength to fail when a car hits it, crumbling or hinging to absorb the impact forces and save the driver and its occupants". The team has succeeded, creating prototypes that are stronger than steel, maintenance free and recyclable.
Whilst the thermoplastic lamp-post can withstand wind and rain, it buckles under impact. This buckling is helped by the positioning of the access hatch, which is a feature of all lamp-posts. "We turned what could have been a weakness to our advantage," says Boyce. "The hatch becomes a built-in weak point over which the lamp-post can hinge when a car impacts."
The project created a thermoplastic composite that is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to the polyester resin currently used to reinforce fibreglass structures used in lamp-posts.
Danish partner Twinrov provided the key technology that replaces the resin with new thermoplastic materials. These are plastics that are solid at room temperature, but when heated they melt and can be moulded and remoulded around the glass fibres forming hollow shapes that are stronger than steel, kinder to the environment and cheaper and faster to produce.
"Thermoplastics are particularly interesting for Danish companies," says Charlotte Olesen, Director of Twinrov "because we probably have the strictest health and safety laws governing the use of solvent-based resins".
Euro Projects has already set up a spin-off company, Safecomp, to develop the market for the new lamp-posts. This includes promoting the benefits of the new lamp-posts to local councils and authorities, explaining that they are cheaper and quicker to produce, maintenance free, can save lives and, when broken by a car impact, they can be ground down and recycled.
According to Boyce, "EUREKA played a key role, allowing us to pool expertise that no single company has, to create this new technology which could also be used for applications other than lamp-posts, including flag poles, signs and pipes."
EUREKA is ...
A European network for market-oriented R&D
- strengthening European competitiveness
- promoting innovation in market-oriented collaborative projects
- involving industry, research institutes and universities across Europe
- resulting in innovative products, processes and services.