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BIOCOMPOSITES ARE COMBINATIONS FIT FOR THE FUTURE

Fibre-reinforced plastics are increasingly being used as lightweight materials in many sectors of industry: in aircraft construction, rail vehicles, automobiles, safety technologies, boat construction any many other fields. Glass or carbon fibre are usually used and embedded in an epoxy resin matrix. The disadvantage of these materials is the high energy consumption involved in manufacturing the reinforcement fibres and the need for oil as a raw material for the bedding mass. Environmentally friendly disposal of the components is also a serious issue. Fibre composite materials are highly durable – they contain a material mixture which is not easy to separate.

Flax

INVENT’s industrial customers are increasingly asking for new material concepts. Innovative materials should be produced in a way which conserves resources and can be disposed of sustainably after end-of-life. An intelligent alternative to the traditional glass fibre reinforced plastics (GFRP) is natural fibre reinforced plastic (NFRP) – the biocomposites. Plants plus technology: biocomposites are fibre composite materials with reinforcement fibres derived from plants. Bast fibres from flax and hemp plants have proven particular suitable in this context. The bedding mass for the natural fibres can be made of either a conventional adhesive or – in the ideal case – a biopolymer based on vegetable oils.

Motorcycle helmet / car bodywork / structures made of natural fibre reinforced plastics

Biocomposites have certain advantages over conventional glass fibre reinforced plastics: this new material conserves resources and opens up new, environmentally friendly ways of disposal. When they are used as combustion fuel, they are almost completely CO2-neutral. Biocomposites made like this offer a level of strength which is suitable for many different applications.

INVENT has developed products from NFRP in collaboration with various project partners. These products have proven themselves in practice. Examples of such products are industrial safety helmets, sports boats, interior cladding sections for commuter trains, Canadian-type sports canoes and natural fibre semi-finished products.

Example Industrial safety helmets

Safety helmets made from natural fibre reinforced plastics

Conventional plastics are difficult to dispose of. This is a problem which comes up every time a conventionally produced plastic product is no longer used. One alternative is offered by helmet shells made of vegetable-oil-based plastics reinforced with natural fibres. The natural fibre reinforcement can come from flax, hemp or from cotton. INVENT has worked together with partners to develop a helmet shell which consists of renewables to an impressive 85 percent. This industrial safety helmet meets test standard EN 397, which means it is approved for sale on the market.

The new safety helmet boasts several advantages over commonly available helmets. It offers better damping of impacts, it does not require special disposal at end-of-life and it can be burned at an almost neutral CO2 level. The new helmet is even 15 percent lighter, which means more comfort for the wearer.

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