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American Process and Futuris Automotive partner to develop biobased auto components

News International-French

20 Nov 2014

Materials scientists across industry, academia, and government have joined forces to replace heavy steel structures in cars with composites reinforced by ultra-strong, lightweight nanoparticles extracted from trees.

American Process Inc. (Atlanta, GA) and Futuris Automotive (Melbourne, Australia) formed a partnership with researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, Clark Atlanta University, Swinburne University of Technology, and the USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory to develop ultra-strong, lightweight automotive structural components reinforced with nanocellulose.

Nanocellulose is a rapidly emerging high performance nanomaterial extracted from trees. The goal of the project is to replace heavy steel structures within cars, such as the seat frames, with advanced reinforced polymers that have cost parity with traditional materials. The nanocellulose composites promise to be an economical substitute for expensive light-weight carbon fiber composites currently used in some luxury automobiles such as BMW’s all-electric i3.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10 percent can improve fuel economy by 6-8 percent. The DOE has established a target vehicle weight reduction of 50% by 2050. The agency states that the limiting factor in use of lightweight materials in vehicles has been availability of sufficient quantities at affordable cost.

American Process proprietary manufacturing process makes renewable, low carbon footprint nanocellulose, which has strengths equivalent to Kevlar and prices similar to conventional polymers. American Process will begin commercial sales of nanocellulose by end of Q1 2015, when their demonstration plant comes online in Georgia.

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