Ford returns to wheat straw reinforced polymer

The Ford Flex – an SUV destined for the US market - is to use polypropylene reinforced with wheat straw to make some of its interior storage bins.

The work is a result of work with academic researchers in Canada and a leading compounder. The bins are 10% lighter than would be the case if they had been stiffened with talc or glass.

The development started when Ford researchers were approached with the wheat straw based formulation by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, as part of the Ontario BioCar initiative. The University of Waterloo had already been working with compounders A.Schulman of Akron, Ohio, to ensure that the material is odourless and meets industry standards for thermal expansion and degradation, rigidity, moisture absorption and fogging.

Already under consideration as suitable for the new material combination are centre console bins and trays, interior air register and door trim components and armrest liners. The Ford Flex is built in Ontario, which has around 30million tonnes of wheat straw available at any given time.

Ford notes that in the 1920s, Henry Ford developed a material called Fordite – a mixture of wheat straw, rubber, sulphur, and other ingredients which was used to make steering wheels for both cars and trucks.

Tom Shelley

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