Modification of Natural Fibers for use as Reinforcement in Advanced Composite Materials
Department of Agriculture
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Small Business Information
1021 MAIN CAMPUS DR STE 300, Raleigh, NC, 27606-5219
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I project is focused on the development of a chemical treatment for bast natural fibers called "In-Situ Polymeric Coating (IPC)". An IPC coating will enable kenaf, flax, jute and/or other bast natural fibers to replace fiberglass in thermoset structural composites. This concept involves an approach to A) solve the well known moisture absorption issue with natural fiber composites, and B) significantly improve the interface between fiber and matrix for enhanced mechanical performance and durability, especially under environmental conditioning. This technology will be suitable for many structural applications, ranging from bathtubs to boat hulls; from LEED's minded building & construction components to lighter weight auto body parts. Tremendous energy savings are possible with the replacement of fiberglass with bast fiber (growing plants verus melting sand). Additionally, carbon dioxide can be taken out of the atmosphere, and much of the carbon locked into permanent thermoset polymeric composite structures. The use of agricultural materials in structural applications can reduce the consumption of and dependence on petroleum and mineral based products. Presently, of the more than one billion pounds annual worldwide production of natural fiber (flax, jute, hemp, kenaf), very little is produced in the US, and none of it is utilized in large volume structural applications. Due to legal restrictions, climate and other factors, Kenaf is the natural fiber best suited for US production, and is an excellent replacement for tobacco as a cash crop. The use of kenaf fiber to replace fiberglass as reinforcement in thermoset matrix composites will enable a low-cost approach to lighter weight structural materials as well as carbon sequestration. One acre of kenaf captures as much CO2 as three acres of rain forest. Much of the captured CO2 can be permanently trapped inside thermoset composite structures. Such technology then directly addresses the USDA's societal challenge of "Climate Change". Additionally, the energy savings from 1) replacing fiber glass manufacture and 2) light weighting structural components used in the automotive and transportation industry, will address a second USDA societal challenge; Sustainable Energy. This work also aims to develop technology that will enable cost-effective US manufacture of materials and components derived from domestically sourced agricultural products; thus supporting "Made in America" type Federal initiatives.
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