Materials - Connecting You To The Composites Industry

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KnowledgeTransferNetworkMaterialsTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESKnowledge Transfer NetworksAccelerating business innovation:a Technology Strategy Board programme

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESForewordEXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe Technology Strategy Board’s Enabling Technologies Strategy 2012-2015[I] includes advanced materials as oneof four technologies that “have a key role to play in helping business to develop high-value products and servicesto meet market needs across all economic sectors, and to generate significant growth in the UK”. At the heart ofthis is a drive to produce advanced materials that are both lightweight and more sustainable whilst maintaining orimproving performance for an equivalent cost. In this regard, biocomposites have an integral role to play.Composite materials derived from natural, renewablesources have received significant interest in recentyears, in particular due to the increased awareness ofand drive towards more environmentally sustainabletechnologies. In many cases bio-based materialsoffer weight reduction, added functionality (e.g.damping / impact absorption) and occupational healthbenefits. A significant market driver for high volumeapplications is the potential to disassociate materialcosts from the fluctuating price of oil and energy.The development and manufacture of advanced materials is also recognised as strategically important to thegrowth of UK Manufacturing in the Technology Strategy Board’s High Value Manufacturing Strategy[II], andcomposite materials are included within this.Advanced biocomposite materials will enable solutions for a growing market and will help companies meet societalchallenges. Exploitation of these materials, with improved properties, will open up new market opportunities,particularly in applications where lightweighting and environmental performance are key considerations.This joint report, commissioned by the Materials KTN and authored by NetComposites, describes current andemerging biocomposites and demonstrates that these materials are now starting to find applications across a widerange of industry sectors.Dr Robert QuarshieDr Joe CarruthersDirector, Materials KTNManaging Director, NetComposites Ltdwww.materialsktn.netwww.netcomposites.comMarch 2014[I] Enabling Technologies Strategy 20122015, Technology Strategy Board,November 2012,[II] High Value Manufacturing Strategy2012-2015, Technology Strategy Board,May 2012, www.innovateuk.orgBiocomposites: Technology Overview is a majorrevision of Best Practice Guide, Natural FibreComposites, by Brendon Weager, NetComposites,commissioned by Materials KTN, issued March 2010.This revision has been jointly undertaken byMaterials KTN and NetComposites Ltd.This guide provides an overview of biocomposites, andthe natural fibres, bio-based polymers and bio-basedcore materials used to produce them, and presentsthe current best practice in materials, processes andapplications. Sources of information include technicalpapers, articles, online information and discussionswith experts. The term “biocomposite” is used here todenote fibre-reinforced polymer composite materialswhere the fibres and/or matrix are bio-based.Hemp, jute and flax are common natural fibrereinforcements in biocomposites and have goodmechanical properties. Fibre quality is influencedsignificantly by the harvesting and processing stepsand there is a move to reduce the on-field processingto improve consistency and reduce costs. Loose fibre,non-woven mats, aligned yarns and woven fabricsare possible forms of natural fibre for composites,with aligned variants offering the best mechanicalproperties. Fibre treatments such as acetylation canbe used to reduce moisture uptake and improvecompatibility with polymers. Synthetic bio-basedfibre reinforcements, such as regenerated cellulose,are also available and offer higher consistency.A number of bio-based polymers are commerciallyavailable including thermoplastics such as starch,PLA and PHB, which are used in packaging, andthermosets from plant oils and sugars. In the shortterm, blended resins containing both bio andsynthetic constituents offer a good compromiseof performance and environmental impact.In most cases, natural fibres have lower environmentalimpact than glass fibres due to reduced CO2 emissionsand energy consumption during production. Duringthe use phase, natural fibres can have a positiveenvironmental impact due to their low weight. At theend of life, natural fibre composites can be recycled,biodegraded (when used with biodegradablepolymers), or can be incinerated for energy recovery.A wide range of applications exist for natural composites,most notably in the automotive, construction, consumerand leisure markets. Commercial applications ofnatural fibre-synthetic polymer composites includeWPC decking and outdoor furniture and automotiveparts such as door liners and trim panels. Thedemand from designers, manufacturers andconsumers for environmentally friendly productswill inevitably drive the rapid development ofother biocomposite materials and products.

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESCONTENTS1Introduction 13 Bio-based polymers and resins172Natural Fibres 33.1Thermoplastic Bio-based polymers2.1Types of Natural Fibres43.1.1Starch 182.2Growing and Harvesting53.1.2Cellulose 182.3Processing of bast fibres63.1.3Polyesters 182.3.1Flax Processing 73.1.4Lignin 19185Natural Fibre-SyntheticPolymer Composites 28297.1.3Interdependency of Fibre,Matrix and Process5.4Aligned Natural Fibre-ReinforcedComposites 337.2Durability 477.3End-of-Life Options 477.4Sustainability 488Current and FutureApplications 498.1Automotive 508.2Construction 518.3Sports and Leisure8.4Consumer Products 559Conclusions 5710Acknowledgements6Fully Bio-based Composites2.3.4Further Processing to OptimiseProperties 113.2.2Polyfurfuryl Alcohol 216.13.3Synthetic-Bio-based Polymer BlendsNatural Fibre-Bio-based PolymerInjection Moulding Compounds353.4Properties 23Non-Woven Natural Fibre-Bio-basedpolymer Composites362.5.2Chemical treatments 152.5.3Additive treatments 152.6Other Natural Fibres16224.1Cores from Trees254.2Bio-based polymer Honeycombs254.3Bio-based polymer Foams264.4Nano Cellulose Foams264.5Properties 2744Non-Woven Natural FibreMat Composites 32Plant oils 20Physical treatments 14Environmental Impact of Natural Fibres5. Impact ofBio-based Polymers 45Jute Processing 1024437. Bio-Based core MaterialsLife Cycle AssessmentNatural Fibre InjectionMoulding Compounds 30Thermosetting Bioresins 20Fibre Treatments Plastic CompositesHemp Processing 9Fibre Properties 13Environmental Issues5. Natural Fibre-Bio-basedPolymer Composites 376.4Natural Fibre-ThermosetBioresin Composites 376.5Future Developments4046535911 Glossary 5912References 63

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESLIST OF FIGURESLIST OF TABLESFigure 1: Types of natural fibre, from [3].4Table 1: Typical properties of natural fibres and glass fibres, from [4-33].13Figure 2: Pulling of flax crop (photo used with kind permission of Mr Marian Planik, WFB Baird Poland Sp. z o.o.).5Table 2: Properties of bio-based polymers. 23Figure 3: Cross-section of a bast stem [8].6Table 3: Mechanical properties of bio-based materials used as cores in composite panels.Figure 4: Bale opening at the start of a flax processing line (photo used with kind permissionof Mr Marian Planik, WFB Baird Poland Sp. z o.o.).7Figure 5: Production of bio-based materials and products from flax plant. British Standards Institution (BSI – Extract reproduced with permission. From [1].Figure 6: Proportions of different products obtained from processing flax (total 5,600 kg/hectare), data from [15].27Table 4: Typical properties of WPCs. 39Table 5: Typical properties of short natural fibre-thermoplastic composites.308Table 6: Properties of non-woven natural fibre mat composites.329Table 7: Properties of aligned natural fibre composites.33Table 8: Properties of natural fibre-bio-based polymer compounds.35Figure 7: Effect of yarn twist on dry yarn strength and impregnated yarn (composite) strength.Minimum yarn strength is 200 MPa. Data from [23].11Table 9: Typical properties of natural fibre-bio-based polymer non-woven mats.36Figure 8: A selection of flax reinforcement fabrics (courtesy of Composite Evolution Ltd).12Table 10: Typical properties for the EcoPreg material, courtesy of Composites Evolution Ltd.38Figure 9: BioMid reinforcement yarn and fabric. A ‘second generation’ bio-based fiber made fromby-products of the lumber industry. Photo by Linda Taylor.16Table 11: Properties of natural fibre-bioresin composites.39Figure 10: Indicative prices of bio-based polymers compared to synthetic polymers, data from [54-57].19Figure 11: Cashew nut shell liquid based Flax Coral Prepreg, produced by CTS, Ohio.Photo courtesy of Elmira Ltd, UK.21Figure 12: Granulated cork formed into a sheet, courtesy of Amorim Cork Composites.25Figure 13: Indicative prices of PP-NF granules and competing injection moulding materials. Data from [75].31Figure 14: Automotive door panel made from non-woven natural fibre mat with furan bioresin(photo used with kind permission of TransFurans Chemicals).37Figure 15: Image of EcoPreg material. From left to right: the woven flax reinforcement, the PFA resin-infusedprepreg and finally the finished consolidated material, courtesy of Composites Evolution Ltd.38Figure 16: Flax / bioresin / paper honeycomb sandwich by EcoTechnilin. Photo:Stella Job, Materials KTN50Figure 17: Pavilion at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, made from sustainable materialsincluding biocomposites (photo used with kind permission of 3XN, Denmark).51Figure 18: A bio-based façade made from hemp and part-bio resin (Gas receiving station clad in biocompositepanels. Location: Agro and Food Cluster, New Prinsenland, Netherlands. Architect: Marco Vermeulen.Manufacture: NPSP Composites, Haarlem. Photo Robert Tilleman).52Figure 19: Snowboard by Magine, manufactured from Composite Evolution’s Biotex flax fabric.53Figure 20: Canoe, by Flaxland, manufactured from Composite Evolution’s Biotex flax fabric.54Figure 21: Biocomposite furniture developed by NetComposites and Sheffield Hallam University,Design Roger Bateman Sheffield Hallam University.55Figure 22: Grit Box manufactured by CEMO GmbH.56

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITES1INTRODUCTIONComposite materials derived from natural, renewablesources have received significant interest in recentyears, in particular due to the increased awareness ofand drive towards more environmentally sustainabletechnologies. In many cases bio-based materials offerweight reduction, added functionality (e.g. damping /impact absorption) and occupational health benefits.A significant market driver for high volume applicationsis the potential to disassociate material costs from thefluctuating price of oil and energy.The environmental benefits of bio-based materialsources include low embodied energy, CO2sequestration, reduced depletion of fossil-basedresources and a positive impact on agriculture.Natural fibres, such as hemp, flax, jute and kenaf, havegood strength and stiffness, whilst being significantlylighter than conventional reinforcements such asglass fibres, and they are relatively low cost andbiodegradable. Natural fibres are currently used insignificant quantities, in particular in automotive interiorcomponents, to reinforce synthetic polymers such aspolypropylene (PP).This guide provides an overview of natural fibres,bio-based polymers and biocomposites, includingtheir properties, processing and applications, andaims to give a guide to the current best practice inthis emerging area of sustainable composite materialstechnology. Although many types of natural fibres areavailable, this guide focuses on bast fibres as these aremost suitable for composites. The information has beengathered from sources including technical papers,articles, online information and discussion with expertsfrom industry and academia.Standards, claims and regulation are important inbringing bio-based products to market, but are notaddressed in this Technology Overview as they arecovered in the recently published PAS 600:2013 Biobased products – Guide to standards and claims [1].A number of naturally-derived polymers and resinshave been launched commercially, the most notablebeing polylactic acid (PLA) from corn starch andpolyfurfuryl alcohol resins from waste sugarcanebiomass. However, many more types are currentlyunder development, from sources including starchesand crop oils.More recently, combinations of these natural fibresand bio-based polymers have been shown to haveappealing composite properties, offering the enticingprospect that fully bio-based composites are anincreasing commercial reality.1www.materialsktn.net2

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITES2.1Types of Natural Fibres2.NATURAL FIBRESA wide range of natural fibres exist and they can beclassified into three main groups – plant, animal andmineral (Figure 1). The most interesting fibres forcomposite reinforcements are from plants, in particularbast, leaf and wood fibres. Bast fibres, such as flax,hemp, jute and kenaf, are taken from the stem of theplant and are most commonly used as reinforcementsbecause they have the longest length and higheststrength and stiffness. Flax and hemp are of particularinterest in the UK and Europe because they are nativeto the region.AnimalSilkWoolBastThese types of plant fibres are composed principallyof a combination of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.From an environmental perspective, these fibres arebiodegradable, recyclable and are ‘carbon positive’ sincethey absorb more carbon dioxide than they release rass stemFlaxSisalCottonSoft woodReed canaryHempBananaCoirHard woodCereal strawJuteAbacaOil palmRamieCurauaBambooKenafFigure 1: Types of natural fibre, from [3].34

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITES2.2Growing and Harvesting2.3Processing of bast fibresThe growing stage is an important stage in natural fibreproduction because it has a great influence on thequality and consistency of the fibre. In particular, theweather conditions can significantly affect the qualityof the crop and the consistency between differentlocations and from year to year. It is good practice forgrowers to retain significant quantities of fibre in bufferstorage in case of a poor harvest.Figure 3 shows a cross-section of a typical baststem and illustrates that the useful fibres are presentas bundles towards the outer of the stem. Forcomposite reinforcement, the aim is usually to obtain‘technical fibres’, which are 50-100 µm in diameterand can be 100-300 mm long. These technical fibresare actually themselves bundles of approximately 40elementary fibres (cells) which may be 10-20 µm and20-50 mm long.Flax and hemp can be successfully grown in the UKand Europe due to the temperate climate, althoughhemp is considered to be easier to cultivate becauseyields are higher per hectare and it has greaterresistance to drought [4]. Hemp and flax plants canyield both fibres from the stem and oil from the seed(e.g. linseed) but a range of crop species exist fordifferent end uses and the best fibres will be obtainedfrom those species which have been selected and bredspecifically for that purpose. For example, in a study of92 flax varieties, the Regenboog type was found to befavourable for producing high quality flax fibre on cottonspinning systems [5].At optimum maturity the crop is cut or ‘pulled’ andspread out on the field to dry (Figure 2). A UK-basedstudy found that the optimum harvesting method forflax was desiccation at the mid-point of flowering 3 days (early to mid-June depending on variety) andapplication of 4 litres/hectare of a glyphosate-basedherbicide, followed by harvesting approximately 8weeks after desiccation [6].Other non-European crops include jute, sisal,kenaf, ramie and curauá. Of these, jute is the mostcommonly used natural fibre in biocomposites and ispredominantly grown in Bangladesh, India and China.Sisal is native to the Yucatan but Brazil is now the mainproducer and curauá is grown in the Amazon regionbut can also be found in other areas where the rainfallexceeds 2,000 mm p.a. [7].5Figure 2: Pulling of flax crop (photo used with kindpermission of Mr Marian Planik, WFB Baird PolandSp. z o.o.).The most important consideration in processingnatural fibres is to obtain the desired level ofrefinement without causing excessive damage.Mechanical processing tends to be aggressive whichcan induce kink bands in the fibres, thereby creatingweak points, and can break the fibres into shortlengths, thus reducing their reinforcing potential.EpidermisBast fibre bundlesShivesHollow spaceor lumenFigure 3: Cross-section of a bast stem [8].6

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITESTECHNOLOGY OVERVIEWBIOCOMPOSITES2.3.1 Flax ProcessingThe extraction of fibres from the flax plant usuallyfollows these steps:RettingRetting is a biological process during which thepectinous matter in the woody stem is broken down byenzymes and bacteria, allowing the fibres to be removedmore easily and improving the fibre fineness. Correctretting is of great importance; under-retting means thatthe fibre bundles cannot be separated from the woodeasily and over-retting results in a weakened fibre.The most common retting process is called dew retting,whereby the cut stems are simply left on the field and theaction of dew, sun and fungi causes the desired biologicalprocess. This process can take 3-6 weeks, depending onthe weather conditions, and action may not be uniformso the straw is often turned 2-3 times during the period.The main drawback of dew retting is that the fibre qualitycan be inconsistent depending on the weather conditionsand also the process is not feasible in drier climates, forexample in Southern Europe [9]. An alternative processis water retting, where the stems are immersed in pondsor rivers. This technique is employed in China, India andsome parts of Eastern Europe [10].In recent times, significant efforts have been made todevelop chemical or enzymatic retting processes whichare fast, controllable and environmentally sound [11-12].These processes typically involve placing the harvestedstraw in temperature controlled tanks and treating themwith chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide or sulphuricacid, or enzymes which break down the pectins veryquickly (as little as 1-2 hours) but careful control isrequired to prevent deterioration. For example, a UKbased study of 8 commercial enzyme products foundthat Bioprep L, an alkaline pectinase supplied by NovoNordisk A/S, Denmark, produced very good resultsoverall, whilst some led to a significant reduction in fibrestrength [6]. The cost of enzymes at approximately 1/kgwas a concern. A study in Poland also found BioprepL to be suitable, whilst cellulolytic agents were foundto roughen the fibre surface [13], which may promoteimproved fibre-matrix adhesion. Other flax fibreseparation techniques under investigation includeultrasound and steam explosion [14].Breaking and ScutchingOnce retted, the straw is dried, baled and collectedfrom the field. Then, inside the fibre processingfacility, the bales are opened and the straw is passedthrough fluted rolls to break up the woody materialinto small pieces (Figure 4). The broken pieces ofshive are then removed in a scutching mill, where flatsteel blades beat or scrape off the shive. Althoughof less interest for fibre-reinforced composites, theshive can be used with lime cement to make bricksor can be used as animal bedding. During thisstage, the seed

5 NATURAL FIbRE-SYNThETIC poLYMER CoMpoSITES 28 5.1 Wood Plastic Composites 29 5.2 Natural Fibre Injection Moulding Compounds 30 5.3 Non-Woven Natural Fibre Mat Composites 32 5.4 Aligned Natural Fibre-Reinforced Composites 33 6 FULLY bIo-bASEd CoMpoSITES 34 6.1 Natural Fibre-Bio-based Polymer .

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