CARBIO consortium displays innovative flax-based material

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A group of UK engineering companies has developed a prototype roof panel to showcase the benefits of flax fibres in automotive manufacturing.

The CARBIO project includes representatives from Jaguar Land Rover, as well as a number of composite materials companies, engineering consultancies and academic facilities. It was formed to investigate the potential of carbon-flax hybrid structures for automotive use.

The prototype roof, set to be showcased at the forthcoming Advanced Engineering show in Birmingham, is constructed from the Biotex Flax material developed by CARBIO member Composite Evolution. It uses a 50:50 carbon/flax hybrid biocomposite, which is said to be around 15 per cent cheaper than traditional carbon fibre and seven per cent lighter for a comparable bending stiffness.

Various members of the CARBIO group contributed to the development and production of the roof. Delta Motorsport carried out the initial design, while SHD Composite Materials was responsible for prepregging the Biotex Flax material and KS Composites carried out the manufacturing.

“The adoption of carbon fibre-epoxy composites to reduce vehicle weight is presenting significant challenges to the volume automotive industry,” explained explained Dr Brendon Weager, technical director of Composite Evolution and project lead for CARBIO.

“Compared to carbon, flax fibres are renewable, lower in cost, CO2 neutral and have excellent vibration damping properties. In addition, bio-epoxy resins based on cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL) can offer enhanced toughness, damping and sustainability over synthetic epoxies.”

Jaguar Land Rover has previously found components made from CARBIO to be approximately 28 per cent lighter than aluminium and 55 per cent lighter than steel. Because of the flax material’s inherent NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) properties it was also found that less sound deadening material was required than a traditional carbon fibre, aluminium or steel part, potentially saving even more weight.