Recently I was researching articles on natural fiber composites, looking for new and informative articles. I stumbled upon an article written in 2010 and published in the JEC Magazine. I found this article to be interesting as it too lists the advantages of natural fiber over glass fiber, and reconfirms what has been stated in this blog.
The Biomaterial for Green Composites
Natural fibers are generally derived from plants, animals, or mineral resources. This article focuses on natural fibers from plants.
MS. LOH YUEH FENG, RESEARCH OFFICER FIBRE AND BIOCOMPOSITE DEVELOPMENT CENTRE (FIDEC) MALAYSIA TIMBER INDUSTRY BOARD (MTIB)
(Published on February-March 2010 – JEC Magazine #55) February 7, 2011
Various types of natural fibers are obtained from plants. The properties of these fibers and the applications for them may vary as a function of the part of the plant they originate from. Table 2 summarizes the types of fibers extracted from various plants and their mechanical properties as compared to glass fiber.
Demand for new materials in the global composite industry is stronger than ever, and supply constraints are becoming increasingly crucial. Current research findings show that the performance of natural fibers in certain composite applications is competitive with that of glass fibers. The advantages of natural fibers over synthetic fibers like glass and carbon include biodegradability, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, low energy consumption, low cost, low density and acceptable specific strength properties. Their use can also contribute to develop the non-food segment of an agriculture based economy. Environment-friendly bio-composites have the potential to be the new materials of the 21st century, as well as a partial solution to many global environmental problems.
|Tab. 2: Different types of natural plant fibers and their properties relative to glass fibre
at failure (%)
|Moisture absorption (%)
||1.5-2.2Source: Kozlowski, 2006
What are bio-composites?
The term “bio-composite” covers: 1) petroleum-derived, non-biodegradable polymers like polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) or epoxies, reinforced with natural fibers; 2) biopolymers (e.g. PLA, PHA) reinforced with natural fibers; and 3) biopolymers reinforced with synthetic fibers such as glass or carbon. Biopolymers reinforced with natural fibers, generally considered to be more environment friendly, are sometimes called “green composites”.
These bio-composites are emerging as a viable alternative to glass-fiber composites, particularly in building, automotive and consumer products.
The current supply of timber is proving to be insufficient, and Malaysia is now trying to use other natural fibers to produce high-value-added bio-composite products.
Huge amounts of natural fiber materials are available in Malaysia: each year, an estimated 10 million m3 are produced from wood residues, 46 million m3 from agricultural residues such as oil palm, and 3,200 metric tons from coconut stems. Malaysia produces more than 30 million metric tons of oil palm biomass palm trunk (OPT), oil palm frond (OPF) and empty fruit bunch (EFB) fibers.
The use of natural fibers for technical composite applications has been the subject of intensive research in both Europe and the USA. Mainly automotive components are produced from natural fibers like flax, hemp or sisal bonded with polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE). The adoption of natural-fibre composites in this industry is driven by price, weight saving and marketing considerations rather than by technical demands. In Malaysia, natural fibers such as empty fruit bunch (EFB) and kenaf are currently being utilized commercially in combination with PP in bio-composites for automotive applications.
It is well recognized that the composite industry is a significant contributor to the global economy. The declining supply and growing price of raw materials are causing concern and, in this regard, natural fiber materials can be seen as a good alternative material for the industry to produce value-added bio-composite products. The industry is therefore encouraged to explore the potential of the resources available for the production of new green composite products that will enhance the industry’s growth, competitiveness and sustainability. The commercial applications of green composites are currently limited, principally to bio-composites for some construction and automotive applications. However, ongoing research and development programs into natural-fiber-reinforced composites and biopolymers should lead to further advances and new opportunities in this industry. In Malaysia, the Fibers and Bio-composite Development Centre (FIDEC) under the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) will play a greater role in R&D and commercialization activities with research institutes, universities and industries, to help turn the abundance of natural fibre into wealth.
What is Polyethylene, referred to in this article as (PE)? Polyethylene is probably the polymer you see most in daily life. Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world. This is the polymer that makes grocery bags, shampoo bottles, children’s toys, and even bullet proof vests. For such a versatile material, it has a very simple structure, the simplest of all commercial polymers.
Further Information on Natural Fiber Composites for the Automotive Industry
For further information regarding the use of natural fiber in a vehicle, visit www.FlexformTech.com to learn about molding the future with natural fiber composites.