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Natural Materials

Fibre-reinforced composites (FRCs) are ubiquitous in today's society, in areas such as construction of components for boats, cars and aeroplanes, as well as sports equipment such as tennis racquets and golf clubs. FRCs are being increasingly used by the automotive, aerospace and wind energy industries due to numerous advantageous properties, including high specific strength and high specific modulus, making them ideal for applications requiring good material properties with low weight.

FRCs are made from a combination of a matrix, which can be either a thermoplastic or thermoset polymer, with
reinforcements such as glass, carbon, aramid or natural fibres. There has been a wide range of work looking at the properties of these types of composites, either by changing the type of matrix or the type of fibre.

Our work investigates the feasibility of incorporating natural materials such as Lignin, Hemp and Flax into manufacturing processes. We have published some recent work which investigated the mechanical properties of natural fibre composites.

Benefits of research:

The majority of energy production for industry comes from non-renewable resources, increasing concerns over the volume of fossil fuels used for energy generation. The use of natural materials which require little energy is therefore desirable.

Plant fibres grow naturally, and therefore require minimal man-made energy input. Natural fibres suitable for reinforcement of polymer materials generally contain large amounts of ligno-cellulosic matter.

Lignin and cellulose are stringy, tough, wood and plant fibres which help to maintain the structure of plants. Plants high in ligno-cellulosic fibres include hemp, jute (hessian), kenaf, flax, coir, wood and pineapple.