Sustainable composites challenge researchers 

With a focus on the automotive industry, F:3 – Fashion, Function, Futures and Smart Textiles invited to an all-day seminar about sustainable composites on the 14th of August. Participants from South Korea, Denmark, Finland and from places all over Sweden received a presentation of research currently under way both at the University and in the industry.

Composites are compound materials used in cars as well as in air planes and boats. Just like for all other materials, research is currently being carried out around the globe to find recyclable substitutes in order to achieve a more sustainable environment.
– Composites are subject to the same environmental requirements all other materials are. From an environmental perspective, the material has useful properties such as low weight and high durability. The challenge for researchers is to find a way to make it recyclable, says Professor Mikael Skrifvars, who initiated the seminar.

Green innovation

During the course of the day, speakers from various companies presented the research they do on environmentally friendly composites. Hanneli Nurmi at Volvo Trucks was one of them.
– We don’t do any research on our own, but rely on others. For example, we perform development of materials together with Swerea IVF, she explains.
Volvo Trucks thinks that green innovation is important and particularly development of sustainable composites. Partly to make the material recyclable, but also because natural composites may reduce the weight of trucks.
– It’s good to meet with others who want the same thing we do. To receive information but also to give information. Perhaps we will find the missing link here today, Hanneli Nurmi says.

The price is still too high

The speaker who had travelled the farthest was Hyon-Joong Kim, who is a professor at Seoul National University, South Korea. Together with his research team, he has just started a two-year research project together with the School of Engineering. During his presentation, he described attempts at developing recyclable composites using fibres from the kenaf plant and the polymer polylactic acid or PLA. Many of the experiments are based on the trial and error method, in which a concept is tried and then modified before it is tried again. He explains that the challenge primarily lies in developing composites that can withstand high temperatures but also in eliminating the smell emitted by natural fibres.
– We finally succeeded and were able to present a material for our research partner, Hyundai. However, so far the price of natural composites is too high for the automotive industry to accept, he concludes his presentation.

Networking

Karen Marie Hasling has also travelled a bit to attend the seminar. She is a doctoral student at the Kolding School of Design, Copenhagen and was at the seminar to listen, but also to network.
– I want to initiate a research collaboration on fibre composites. We don’t have that kind of research at our school. So, here I am looking for someone at the University of Borås who wants to work together with me, she says.
New collaborations is exactly the purpose Mikael Skrifvars states for the seminar and at the end of the day he is very pleased.
– Now, we will go back to work with the on-going research projects in the field and to make use of the new connections with businesses and research institutes we have established today.

Text and photo:Therese Rosenblad