Innovation

Engineers say recycleable car parts are within reach

A team of engineers searching for sustainable alternatives to carbon fibre say recyclable car parts made with natural fibres are a realistic possibility. Stuart McDill reports.

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND, UK (Reuters) – Testing the future of lightweight materials.

Engineers at the University of Portsmouth searching for the right natural fibre to replace carbon fibre for use in car, boat or aircraft manufacturing.

DR HOM DHAKAL, UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING SAYING:,

“They need to make parts or components that are light in weight so that they can have less fuel consumption if you have lightweight material. If you have less fuel consumption then you have less CO2 emission. So overall that product becomes environmentally friendly.”

Dr Dhakal’s mission is sustainability – the ultimate goal a high perfoRmance composite material with the strength of carbon fibre – but biodegradable….

and this could be it.

It’s date palm fibre – a waste product – with a biodegradable polymer.

DR HOM DHAKAL, UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING,

“If we can use waste biomass for composite reinforcement that will be an amazing achievement because you are making composite from waste. So this is date palm fibre from the Middle East. This material is abundantly available in that part of the world. So if we can use this material to reinforce composites that would be an amazing achievement because we are making composite material from waste biomass.”

Although sustainable materials are already in use in manufacturing – structural or semi-structural components are normally not recyclable.

The team foresee parcel shelves, engine covers and even bumpers or fenders made from flax, jute and hemp.

DR HOM DHAKAL, UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING,

“I strongly feel that this is the time for natural fibre composites or sustainable materials because if we consume all available resources or materials now we will not leave anything for our future generations so we will be called selfish people. So that is not the sustainable development that the world is looking for. We want to have development that importantly meets the requirement of current generations but also meets the requirement of our future generations. That is the sustainable development that I understand. So using natural materials is very important to maintain the balance.”

The team are now working to overcome one drawback of natural fibres, their tendency to absorb moisture, a problem they believe they’ve already overcome.

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