An EU project to investigate the use of bio-based composites for marine products has concluded that materials such as flax could offer lighter and more environmentally friendly alternatives in various applications.
The ‘SeaBioComp’ Interreg 2 Seas project, a European Territorial Cooperation Programme covering England, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, concluded that components made from bio-based thermoplastic composites can offer reduced weight to achieve a given tensile or bending strength that can be beneficial in reducing the overall weight of a structure.
“Another key performance advantage of flax-based bio composites lies in the increased structural damping provided by the flax fibre replacement,” the project concluded. “The project has demonstrated that this can be beneficial in applications where noise and vibration reduction could be an issue.”
During growth, flax absorbs a lot of CO₂ and ‘cleans’ the soil through phytoremediation.
Part financed by the European Regional Development Fund, project partners including research organisations, textile and composite specialists, universities, and cluster organisations, have been working together for the past four years to develop, mechanically test and research a number of biobased formulations using different manufacturing techniques.
It has now released a series of technical leaflets detailing various production methods using self-reinforced biocomposites and flax-based biocomposites for marine applications, including compression moulding, monomer infusion and additive manufacturing.
“These technical leaflets will be of interest to manufacturers of marine products as well as supply chain companies and the academic sector and are available as downloads from the project website: http://www.seabiocomp.eu/downloads/,” the project says.
Some potential applications for the materials include drifting buoys and interior cabins, hatches and panels.
“The use of biopolymers is often viewed with suspicion, but the SeaBioComp project has shown that these materials can indeed play an important role in the future,” said Isabel de Schrijver, R&D Manager Plastic Characterization, Processing and Recycling+ Functional Thermoplastic Textiles at Ghent University. “Thanks to the unique collaboration within the project, we have gained a better understanding of the chemical and physical properties of biocomposites and their behaviour in the environment. This knowledge is indispensable and will be an important source of knowledge for our companies.”