Super-tall masts developed for yachting are having a direct influence on bridge design, a key figure has revealed.
Composites specialist Magma Structures claims to have created three of the world’s tallest carbon composite free-standing masts.
Built near Portsmouth, the masts have taken over three years to develop, test, design and build, and will be used on a sailing superyacht - supporting a sail area greater than a standard sized football pitch.
Magma Structures managing director Clive Johnson said: “These rigs are among the most technically challenging free-standing carbon composite structures to have been manufactured due to their size, design load requirements and the marine environment in which they will be used.
“The skills developed and experience gained from building these rigs are already having a direct impact on projects we are developing in other sectors including bridges, stadiums and buildings where the benefits of manufacturing in composites can be significant.”
The rigs are designed to withstand bending loads more than twice those encountered by airplane wings, and each mast is able to rotate.
Carbon fibre, similar to that used in motorsports and high-end aerospace products, was used in the manufacturing process. The very high specific strength of carbon composite and its exceptional fatigue and corrosion resistance make it suitable for large free-standing structures which need to withstand high bending loads. Despite their height of over 90m, each cantilevered freestanding mast weighs around 50t.
The rigs are embedded with fibre optic sensors to give real-time, comprehensive load data on all aspects of the rig as well as safety warnings, historical data, condition monitoring and information to optimise the sailing performance.
Technical advisor to the project Damon Roberts said: “The high strength, fatigue resistant nature of carbon has been the key in enabling us to develop and manufacture a free-standing structure much larger than anything currently built, including the current generation of wind turbine blades, and with much higher bending loads.
“The embedded fibre optic monitoring data is invaluable in giving us real-time data to optimise the sailing performance as well as verify the design concepts and give us load case data to minimise the maintenance.”