Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Natural Fiber Composites - Abaca

With consumers, manufacturers, and governments all desiring more environmentally friendly products, composite companies are beginning to look seriously at bio-based materials. Bio-based resins, reinforcing fibers, and core materials are all potential replacements for traditional products.

When looking at reinforcing fibers, for some time people have been using hemp, flax, bamboo, etc as a polymer reinforcement. Products or parts made with these natural fibers do not have nearly the structural characteristics of traditional composite fibers such as fiberglass. However, for many non-structural components such as interior car panels, these reinforcements are an ideal fit.

One natural fiber that is gaining momentum is Abaca. A relative of the banana family, abaca is primarily grown in the Philippines and more recently in Ecuador. The major use currently is in speciality paper products, such as coffee filters, but abaca is slowly gaining traction in automotive composite applications. As of 2008, abaca was cultivated on 140,000 hectares (345,000 acres) in the Philippines, representing about $80 million in annual revenue.

In years to come I imagine abaca and other bio-based composite components will become more prevalent... as they should.


Photo Credit: ripplestone garden via flicker

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