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The world is facing a major challenge with the need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. For our own well-being and for the next generation, each and every one of us has to contribute to a sustainable development in order to reduce green-house gases as set by the European Union.
(Published on March-April 2009 – JEC Magazine #47)
GIOTTIS MOTSANOS, PRESIDENT & MARKETING DIRECTOR, TRIFILON TECHNOLOGIES
With the growing global population, environmental problems are becoming more frequent. Now, in the 21st century, it is clear that we are paying the price for our high consumption, advanced technologies and rapid growth, in the form of ecological problems and sometimes even natural disasters. It is in our interest to look for solutions.
Several good reasons
As a consequence, there is a growing interest in green, environment-friendly materials. As far as composites are concerned, one solution could be to use natural fibres instead of more traditional glass and carbon fibres. Natural fibres are renewable, they are biodegradable in appropriate circumstances and use a biopolymer as matrix. Subject to a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), the potential advantages of such BioHybrid Composites (BHC) would be:
In composites, natural fibres can compete with synthetic fibres because of their lower density and because they are healthier to work with and less abrasive to the tooling equipment. Their low density and bonded energy makes it possible to recycle laminates. This is the main reason for the automotive industry’s great interest in BHC. Interfacial strength (adhesion) is key to efficient reinforcement. Biofibres have an advantage in the design and manufacture of BHC laminates: compared with pure carbon laminates, which have a “linear” flexural modulus, BHC laminates have a “non-linear” flexural modulus, i.e. better flexural and impact strength than pure carbon-fibre laminates.
BHC in automotive applications
Automotive traffic accounts for the world’s largest consumption of fossil fuels. In Europe, the automotive industry is facing significant penalties (up to EUR5,000) when a car manufactured/sold within the EU does not meet the carbon dioxide emission limit of 130 g/km (see Table 1).
The automotive industry itself predicts that approximately 80% of the vehicles will be produced with a hybrid powertrain by 2020. A solution will be needed, however, to compensate for the additional weight (approximately 100- 200 kg) of such a hybrid power-train. Increasing the weight range of vehicles could be accomplished by using lightweight materials. For every hundredkilogram weight reduction, the vehicle’s fuel consumption is reduced by 5%.
Trifilon Technologies offers the automotive industry a revolutionary new generation of composite material, with four unique improved properties. Trifilon’s BioHybrid Composite (BHC) material is capable of overcoming several of the obstacles the automotive industry will be facing from 2012 onwards, such as emission regulations, end-of-life handling and pedestrian safety.
Consumer awareness of fuel price/consumption issues and the use of cutting-edge technology could put a brand in jeopardy (brand loyalty). The willingness of car owners to contribute to a sustainable development – and to get value for money – is undisputed.
Proven intrinsic advantages
The BioHybrid Composite is environment friendly and offers high quality and unique properties. This material has all the benefits of pure-carbon-fibre laminates, with at least 25% higher flexural strength in comparison to weight, and higher impact stress/load. The laminate is less expensive, because two plies of six (two plies +45 -45) can be substituted with one BHC of less expensive biofibre. Example, 1 mm thick laminate.
The BHC laminate makes it possible to recycle high-valued, high-priced carbon fibre an unlimited number of times. This should be appreciated, as carbon fibre is in short supply. The recycling process is CO2 neutral as far as the biofibre is concerned.
In the wind-power sector, the material can be used to manufacture the larger rotor blades demanded by the market to generate more renewable energy per unit. There will probably be a structural change in the marketplace.
A value-added production method
The production method reaches 96% of equivalent autoclaved laminates, and is environment friendly. It costs only 1-5% of the cost of equivalent conventional equipment, is faster, more effective and involves less post-processing work. It consumes 80% less energy than conventional equipment and can handle unlimited part sizes and geometries. Moreover, the equipment is mobile, which reduces its environmental impact, as it requires less transportation when a unit can be manufactured on site.
Under the test
As part of a student project at the University of Linköping, a number of tests were carried out on carbon, hemp and epoxy BioHybrid Composites (BHC) under the supervision of Professor Sten Johansson. Charpy impact tests and a 3-point bending flexural test were implemented. The students produced graphs (see Figures 3) showing that the BHCs have better absolute flexural strength, independently of the specific weight. Furthermore, less carbon is used by weight. This indicates that Trifilon’s technique provides greater product design freedom than carbon fabric. It saves both weight and money compared to conventional lay-up techniques. All the laminates represented in the graphs are manufactured by the EVT™ (Electroheated Vacuum bagging Technology developed by Trifilon) production method, which uses a pressure of only one atmosphere. Such high mechanical properties are generally attainable only by using autoclaves. Trifilon’s material and method make it possible to save a considerable amount of money and energy during production, not to mention the huge investment normally needed for an autoclave and the environmental aspects. In the Charpy test, the pure carbon specimens showed complete fracture, while the carbon-hemp samples were more ductile (see figures 4a and 4b). The specific absorbed energy is greater for BHC than for pure carbon composites.
F1 and racing in general would be a field of application with immediate results in terms of driver safety and fair-racing issues: With this new material, there would be less carbon-scrap debris on the circuit, reducing the number of pit stops required to replace smashed parts and flat tires.