From Napoleon to Norway – The development of composite cylinders


Composite cylinders have been with us as pressure vessels for certain types of applications, for only about half a century.

However, their foundation was laid almost two centuries ago, way back in 1815. Here it is claimed that Napoleon, unable to reach enemy lines with his cannons, strengthened their barrels by wrapping strong iron wire around them.

This additional reinforcement then gave them a capacity of accepting more highly charged cannon balls, capable of travelling further, thus breaching enemy lines. Although unknown to him at that time, he unwittingly became the founder of a thriving composite industry in the 21st century!

Nothing really happened after this ‘Eureka Moment’ for almost another hundred years, until in 1919 a spirally-wound, double-ended pressure vessel was developed. It was wound with two layers of high tensile strength steel wire to prevent sidewall rupture. With a 150mm diameter and a length of 500mm, it had a working pressure of just 69 bar (1000 psi).

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