SUSTAINABLY MODIFIED NATURAL FIBERS
In the last decade, the demand for strong and light-weight materials for products like sporting goods, furniture, automobiles and suitcases has led to an increase in the demand of composite materials. The Natural Fibers project develops technology to produce sustainable composite materials consisting of natural fibers and polymers that are strong and light. To combine these two elements and to make them resistant in wet environments, the natural fibers have to be made hydrophobic. FeyeCon has realized this by treating the natural fibers with pressurized CO₂, which is a solvent and water free process. After depressurization, the fibers come out clean and dry, which makes the CO₂ process the only impregnation system that does not need a washing and drying step.
Currently the market of glass fiber reinforced composites is by far the largest. More recently, a small portion of the market has been taken over by composites reinforced with natural fibers, due to the fact that these have a 20% lower weight. Furthermore, the ecological footprint is smaller than that of glass fibers, because the production of glass needs large amounts of energy. The aim of this project is to make natural fibers hydrophobic with a dry and sustainable process, resulting in sufficiently strong end-products to allow replacement of glass fiber reinforced materials. Envisioned end-user products are sports goods like light-weight ski’s, automotive parts, building materials or any other products where natural fibers can replace glass fibers.