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The NATEX consortium has published results from their free workshop, held in March, that was designed to help increase the awareness of bio-composites.
NATEX is a collaborative project funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Program. The project involves 17 partners from 8 European countries and has a total value of € 5M. The project runs from 2008 – 2012 and aims towards the development of aligned textiles from natural fibres that are suitable for use as high-strength reinforcing fabrics to produce structural composite materials and components.
The workshop was hosted by the Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (INFMP) at their headquarters in Poland, and provided participants with an overview of the projects’ aims and objectives.
NATEX’ say innovations in spinning natural fibres have an effect on the applicability of standard waiving techniques, and the development of bio-derivable resins greatly impacts the sustainability of natural fibre composites. In March 2012, a second workshop will be organised, oriented to the automotive sector.
“Most people are of the opinion that natural fibres such as hemp and flax can be used to produce yarns and ropes, applications in which they carry loads very well. When yarns are spun, the fibres tend to twist. Although twisted natural fibres make excellent yarns for clothing, a twisted fibre cannot carry over stress from a matrix as efficiently as a straight fibre does”, explains Mark Hughes, Professor at Aalto University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Chemistry and Materials, Department of Forest Products Technology in Finland.
NATEX explain, for structural composite applications, where load bearing capacity is important, straight homogeneous fibres are still preferred by most end-users. They say the tendency of natural fibres to swell due to moisture uptake, their weaker dimensional stability and flaws in the fibres compromise the performance of natural fibres in structural composite applications. In order to upgrade these performances, innovations in natural fibre modification and bio-composite production are essential and these challenges are addressed by partners in the NATEX-project.
The workshop was opened by Sergio Fito, Aimplas, Spain, who gave an outline of NATEX project. Sergio explained how the partners are working together, and which partners are in the consortium. The consortium has organisations involved covering the entire value chain of natural fibre composites.
Mark Hughes informed participants on the improvements of natural fibres by fibre modification. Kamila Dobies and Andrzej Grabowski, Safilin, a spinning and weaving mill of linen and hemp, explained how low twist spinning techniques can contribute to the success of natural fibres in composites. Malgorzata Zimniewska, Institute for Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants, and Marek Radwanski, Ekotex, an ecological Polish spinner mill gave an overview on how the performance of natural fibre yarns can be increased. Morten Rask (Danish Technical University) explained how the fibre twist angle influences the fibre mechanics.
Lorena Requena from Piel SA, a 3D-textile producer in Spain, presented test results of 3D woven fabrics with natural fibresm, and illustrated the potential of bio-composites with case studies on real life applications. Wouter Geurts , European Composites Industry Association, highlighted the findings of Formax related to the use of natural fibres on 2D weaving machines for composite fabrics, explaining that the challenges are mainly related to the limitation of fabric weight and fibre defects, frequently induced during the spinning process. Margarethe Goedel, Chemo, producer of storage containers presented two case studies on a cover of a grid-container and a motor-cover made with natural fibre composites.
In his presentation on ‘new fully bio-based composites’ Thomas Pohl, IVW, the composites institute in Germany, informed the participants on natural fibre prepregs with furan thermoset resins. TransFuran Chemicals, a company located in Belgium, developed furan thermoset resins which can be used in combination with natural fibres, thereby yielding a 100% renewable composite material. The furan thermoset resin is bio-renewable and it can be derived from biomass via a chemical pathway.
Luc Ruys, Centexbel, a Belgian Textile research centre presented another FP7 project, Bioagrotex, which aims at the development of high-end textiles based on natural fibres and biorenewable polymers.
The next NATEX workshop will take place in March 2012 with a focus on the automotive sector.
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