Composites could revolutionize shipping containers


The humble shipping container has been around in its current form pretty much since its American inventor Malcolm McLean came up with the idea in 1956. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Chicago last month, Stephan Lechner, of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, detailed how carbon fiber composites might revolutionize this tool of global trade.

While a composite container might cost EUR6000 ($8300) versus EUR2200 ($3050) or a steel container, at a diesel fuel cost of EUR1.6 per liter ($8.40/gallon), the composite container would break even after the container has traveled around 120,000 km (74,500 miles) on account of their lighter weight: 1.2 tonnes versus 2.2 tonnes for a steel container. They would also be corrosion-resistant to boot.
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