Technological research and the ongoing investment in innovation have made the Composite Cork BU a success story, when it comes to increasing the possibilities of cork. The strategy to combine Research & Development to highly qualified engineering processes has given rise to new products and new applications for cork-based composite materials.
Part of the effort in R&D is applied to the challenge to technologically reinforce cork's natural characteristics, through maximising the use of natural raw materials and/or produced from biomass. New resins and manufacturing technologies for such products and solutions are also developed, which are completely distinctive.
The challenge to innovate in the Composite Cork BU has enabled cooperation programmes to be developed with universities, partnerships, and projects in a consortium. A noteworthy example is the AEROFAST project, in the context of which this BU developed a new material for the thermal shields of spacecraft with a view to a future unmanned mission to Mars.
The project was managed by EADS/Astrium and had strict requirements in regard to the thermal protection of cork. The Cork Composites BU's task was to study and develop a cork-based protection system which was innovative and resistant, as well as new resins and high heat resistant surface treatments. The project's success is the guarantee of the continuity of the use of cork in space missions in the 21st century, as shown by the recent successes in the launch of the Delta IV rocket, one of the most advanced by Boeing, and Vega, the most recent rocket by the ESA - European Space Agency, which both feature Corticeira Amorim materials.
In land transport, the work on important innovation projects has been remarkable, examples of which include Inspiro, the new surface metro by Siemens, and EcoTrain, the eco-efficient train. Within the sphere of future transport, examples to note are the intervention in concepts such as the IBUS, ISEAT and Life projects – the latter the winner of the international «Crystal Cabin Awards 2012».
In the construction sector, this BU conducted the Wallinblock research project, an innovative modular structure, based on agglomerated cork. This solution aims to build walls without concrete pillars, by using pioneering structural technology and the incorporation of cork and other natural materials. Also in this sector, another solution – CORKwall – enabled the Cork Composites BU to win the Tektónica Innovation Award, the recognition of the possibilities for the rehabilitation of facades, combining insulation functions and final finish in the same product.
The investment in R&D+I enables solutions with cork to be increasingly wide-ranging and surprising. In sport, for example, new systems with cork granulate on synthetic grass pitches contribute to making artificial grass more identical to natural grass, thus increasing its performance. In high level equestrian competition, inserted into the horseshoes, it reduces the impact from jumps and increases performance. This also happens in surfboards and other water sports.