Absorbing the payback from composites

A new breed of composites are reinforced with natural fibres

Linseed and other plant waste-derived fibres can be used to make composite sheets and drawn into complex shapes by cutting them into shorter lengths.

The fibres can also be formed into mats for sound absorption in cars and elsewhere, and also used to selectively absorb oil from water-based mixtures.

There have been many attempts to do this already, as Ben Schadla-Hall, marketing manager of Eco-Mats and Eco-Composites, based in Ely, explained to Eureka at the recent ‘Tigers of Tomorrow’ event in Cambridge. In fact, we reported on the Silsoe Research Institute developed decorticator machine back in the 1990s that could take straw from linseed and other crops, and extract useful fibre.

According to Schadla-Hall, its machine exists in the form of a prototype and, while not as large as the Silsoe machine, is still quite big. The process begins by allowing the straw to partially rot in the fields (retting), after which the woody parts – shives/pith – and dust are removed in the machine.

Tom Shelley

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