SBIR Phase I: Coconut (Coir) Fiber Automotive Composites
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of replacing polypropylene/polyester composite materials used for automobile trunk liners with more environmentally friendly coconut fiber based fabric composites. The environmentally friendly coconut fibers, produced from coconut husks, have a superior combination of fiber diameter, strength, stiffness, and ductility compared to synthetic, petroleum based polyester fibers currently used, making it possible to produce greener, lower cost trunk liners, door panels and floor boards. Preliminary results on an engineered composite material made from a compression molded blend of coconut fibers and polypropylene fibers are very promising, but additional research is needed to develop the optimal (1) combination of coconut fibers and polypropylene fibers, (2) interfacial adhesion between fibers, and (3) processing path (temperature, pressure and time) to meet the automotive certification/specification tests for General Motors and other automotive companies. The total market potential for coconut fiber automotive composites is 300 million kg/year. The broader impacts of this research include the reduction of petroleum consumption by 2-4 million barrels per year and the potential reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 450,000 tons per year. There are over 10 million poor coconut farmers (income ~ $500/year) who own 95% of the coconuts harvested annually worldwide. Approximately 85% of the coconut husks, which contain the coconut fiber, are burned because there is insufficient demand for this biomass. The successful development of coconut fiber based automotive composites could provide an additional $100-$200 million of annual income for these farmers. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
Small Business Information at Submission:
Whole Tree, Inc.
9425 HOPELAND DR Austin, TX 78749
Number of Employees: