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ULTRAFIBRE — Result In Brief

Project ID: 243456
Funded under: FP7-SME

Improving natural fibre-based plastics

Fibre-reinforced polymers have applications in the aerospace, leisure, automotive, construction and sporting industries. A recent EU-funded initiative addressed the need to substitute synthetic fibres with natural fibres, to the benefit of the non-food crop sector.
Improving natural fibre-based plastics
Retting, a process whereby plant stems are left to weather in the field, has been identified as the weak link along the supply chain of natural fibres. The use of this process translates into high costs, batch-to-batch variation and supply inconsistencies, hindering the replacement of inorganic and petrochemical-based fibres with a more sustainable option.

The 'New manufacturing infrastructure for the production of high quality natural fibres' (ULTRAFIBRE) project was established to develop a clean processing technology to extract fibre from plants after harvesting. The process is known as hydroacoustic decortication, and it avoids heavy reliance on retting.

Project partners successfully demonstrated the application of this process to create high-quality elementary natural fibres. They also treated fibres with atmospheric plasma, which improved their adhesive properties.

The fibres themselves were used to create higher quality commercial thermoplastic and thermosetting composites. Bio-composites with improved mechanical properties for new high-tech applications were also generated.

For natural fibre growers, the technology would promote economic prosperity since they will be able to supply composite materials processors and end-user markets with consistent, high-quality products. ULTRAFIBRE will thus indirectly support increased competitiveness in the sector, as well as cooperation between materials suppliers, converters, farmers, research centres and end users of the plastic products.

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