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SBIR Phase II:Coconut (Coir) Fiber Automotive Composites

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1026842
Agency Tracking Number: 0912360
Amount: $500,000.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: BC
Solicitation Number: NSF 08-548
Solicitation Year: 2010
Award Year: 2010
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): N/A
Award End Date (Contract End Date): N/A
Small Business Information
Austin, TX 78749
United States
DUNS: 828924048
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 David Greer
 (479) 414-6972
Business Contact
 David Greer
Phone: (479) 414-6972
Research Institution

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will resolve the technical issues associated with scaling up the manufacturing of non-woven fabric composites made from a blend of coir fiber (from coconut husks) and recycled polypropylene. Final product variability due to the coir fiber itself, the milling of coir fiber from coconut husks, and the manufacturing process to make the felted composite, will be minimized. The variability of the coir fiber feedstock will be determined, along with the resulting variation of the composite's flexural stiffness. The most cost-effective production process to produce consistently clean, 2-3" long fibers in-country from husks will be defined. Finally, the manufacturing processes required to produce these coir fiber composites with the required consistency for automotive applications will be developed. This project will include continuous input from a major automotive manufacturer as well as an automotive parts maker. This research will result in an improved readiness of a polypropylene/coconut fiber based non-woven fabric composite that meets industry certifications for use in automobile trunk liners, and which is greener, less expensive, and better performing than current all-synthetic parts.
The broader/commercial impact of this project will take many forms. The total market for automotive non-woven fabric composites is 300 million kg/year. Each vehicle platform that adopts this technology will require 2 million kg/year just for the trunk liners. Replacing synthetic fiber with coconut fiber makes parts more environmentally friendly while utilizing a waste material. Petroleum consumption can be reduced 2-4 million barrels per year and CO2 emissions reduced by 450,000 tons per year by replacing polyester fibers with coir in automotive interior composites. Additionally, the improved performance and lower weight of these materials will lead to cost savings through increased fuel economy, saving up to 3 million gallons of gasoline per year in the U.S. Finally, this project will lead to great economic opportunities for poor coconut farmers and to a very positive environmental impact. Ninety-five percent of the 50 billion coconuts grown worldwide are owned by 10 million coconut farmers whose average income is less than $2/day. Approximately 85% of the coconut husks are currently disposed of as trash, creating pollution. The successful adoption of these materials would create a market for this material, in many cases doubling the annual income for these farmers.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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