Light, strong carbon‑fiber composites from Texas A&M University use recycled wood fiber to reinforce the structure while speeding up the assembly of the material.

Benefits

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Sustainable

Applications

  • Manufacturing
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

Bioutilization

  • Wood fiber

The Challenge

Polymer composites reinforced with ultra-fine strands of carbon fibers are used in many applications across industries, and are known for being incredibly strong and lightweight. Carbon nanotubes are oftentimes added to the composites to improve electrical and thermal conductivity and further increase strength. However, the chemical processes for adding the nanotubes oftentimes causes the nanoparticles to clump up and spread unevenly throughout the composite, decreasing the effectiveness.

Innovation Details

The material uses cellulose nanocrystals, derived from recycled wood fiber, to coat carbon nanotubes uniformly in the carbon-fiber composites. The cellulose nanocrystals have certain areas that attract or repel water, allowing them to anchor on to the carbon-fiber while still dispersing evenly, increasing the organization of the nanotubes and improving the composite overall.

Biomimicry Story

Plant matter is mainly made up of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Cellulose makes up 30-50% of a plant and it’s what gives a plant its structure. It is lightweight but has a high strength to weight ratio, making it strong and durable. Cellulose can be broken down into very small components, called nanocrystals. Nanocrystals are strong and have low thermal conductivity