UK group looks to overcome plant-fiber composite drawbacks


In the United Kingdom, researchers at the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Research Group at the University of Portsmouth are researching composites from agricultural waste that could one day be used in automotive, marine, and aerospace industries.

The composites being researched are made from flax, hemp, jute, and waste biomass date palm fibers.

“Using natural plant fibers such as date palm biomass for composite manufacturing has the potential to provide farmers in high value products with extra income and reduce C02 emissions from the burning of waste at the same time, an example of valorization of materials,” says Dr. Hom Nath Dhakal, lead researcher.  “These lightweight alternatives could help to reduce the weight of vehicles, contributing to less fuel consumption and fewer CO2 emissions. The sustainable materials can be produced using less energy than glass and carbon fibers, and are biodegradable, therefore easier to recycle.”

Plant fibers have high specific strength and stiffness as well as lower production costs than synthetic fibers, but are less compatible with polymer matrices and are hydrophilic. Dr. Dhakal and his team are working to address these issues.