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Research into Natural Materials

The Ecological problem:

There is growing concern over the increase in man-made CO2 emissions released into the environment. Reducing our carbon footprint is the major challenge facing us.

Traditional composite material structures made from glassfibre or carbonfibre in a petrochemical derived resin present an opportunity to be challenged by lightweight low carbon footprint composite structures formed of natural materials.

A Biological solution:

The use of annually renewable biologically supplied natural materials (fibres and resins) to replace traditional glassfibre and carbonfibre epoxy/phenolic in composite components offer an intrinsic zero or neutral carbon footprint vale proposition.

TSB Research and Development:

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) provided us with funding (2013) to undertake feasibility studies to make structural components from natural fibres and bio-resins as a possible replacement for traditional composites. Biological sourced materials are sustainable and offer a low carbon footprint and potentially solve the end of life disposal problem (usually landfill) that besots the glassfibre and carbon fibre epoxy or phenolic resin systems of today.

Professor Rob Dorey of NANOMATERIALS at the University of Surrey, previously at Cranfield University and six Post-Graduates were involved in the project. ( Professor Rob Dorey ).

Some photos and brief details of the material systems investigated are shown below.

Woven Flax photo

Woven Flax. This is a natural fibre.This plant was extensively grown in Great Britain during the war and used for parachutes, army clothing and aircraft skins.

Silicon Carbide-Balsa photo

Silicon Carbide-Balsa core in Bioresin panel. Very stiff and lightweight

Silicon Carbide Fibre in a BioResin.

Silicon Carbide Fibre in a BioResin. Early wetting test.

Silicon Carbide fibre skins on a balsa wood core

Silicon Carbide fibre skins on a balsa wood core in Bioresin