Eco-friendly Technology Provides Strength & Sustainability…
Epoxy resin may be combined with a variety of fibrous materials to increase strength and durability as well as decreasing material weight – creating an epoxy-resin composite. In the past, the polymer has often been combined with carbon or polyester-based fibers; but more recently, natural biofibers have been increasing and successfully integrated for a host of applications.
Natural cellulose fibers may be extracted from a variety of sources such as sugarcane, pineapple, bananas, bamboo wood and cork. Cellulose provides the infrastructure that gives strength and stability to plant cell walls and fiber. Other sources of cellulose fibers that may be harvested for biofibers include grains such as corn, wheat, barley and sorghum.
“Biocomposite materials made from natural fibers and/or bio-based resins are making inroads into markets ranging from automotive and building materials to clothing and sporting goods. According to Lucintel, the global biocomposites market should grow by 7.9 percent from 2018 through 2023, reaching an estimated $7.6 billion in value,” from ‘Doing it Naturally’ by Mary Lou Kay.
Epoxy-based composites reinforced with natural fibers, while not having quite the same strength of carbon-fiber composites, are a better environmental choice as they have a 20 to 50 percent lower carbon footprint. Also, depending upon the application, they have distinct benefits - such as in the application of injection molding where natural materials cool more quickly - allowing reducing manufacturing cycle time; and therefore, increasing production.
“One benefit of biofibers is that they come from a renewable resource, but that also makes them more heterogeneous in the way that they behave. Synthetic fibers produced in a factory are very consistent. But bio-based fibers may change with growing conditions; if there’s more or less rain in the summer, what happens to the quality of the product? Lin P’ing Choo-Smith, Vice President of the Composites Innovation Centre in Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada, notes that winemakers have overcome a similar dilemma by blending various harvests, and the same could be done with biofibers,” Kay explains.
“The modern use of composite materials in manufacturing is not new, spanning several decades, going as far back as the early 1960s. And before that, the combination of fiber with a liquid matrix has been employed in a variety of applications, ranging from tried and true dried mud and straw (adobe bricks) to a concept car developed by Ford Motor Co. (Detroit, Mich., U.S.) in 1941 that featured body panels made with natural fiber-reinforced composites,” ‘Composites 101: Fibers and resins,’ as edited by Jeff Sloan, Editor-in-Chief, CompositesWorld.