The article compares the properties of natural fibres, such as flax (shown here) with glass fibres and reviews available biopolymers. (Picture used under license from Shutterstock.com © Elena Elisseeva.)
The article compares the properties of natural fibres, such as flax (shown here) with glass fibres and reviews available biopolymers. (Picture used under license from Shutterstock.com © Elena Elisseeva.)

This is the conclusion of the review article Critical review of recent publications on use of natural composites in infrastructure by David B. Dittenber and Hota V.S. GangaRao of West Virginia University, published in the journal Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, Volume 43, Issue 8, August 2012 (pages 1419-1429).

The article compares the properties of natural fibres with glass fibres and reviews available biopolymers. It looks at the challenges of working with natural fibre composites and the factors driving increased interest in their use.

The review's conclusions include the following:

  • the natural fibres of flax, hemp, and ramie possess particularly impressive specific mechanical properties;
  • the main challenges associated with moisture absorption, fire resistance, mechanical properties and durability, variability, and manufacturing/processing of natural FRPs are being addressed by recent research efforts;
  • natural FRPs have been successfully adapted to nearly every major manufacturing process currently used with synthetic composites, usually with few or no modifications to the processes themselves;
  • even though, to date, natural composites are not as cost-effective as their synthetic equivalents, the price difference shows signs of continuing to decrease such that eventually they will not only be the more environmentally responsible choice but also more economical;
  • life cycle analyses have shown that natural composites compare favourably to synthetic composites, using only around 20-40% as much energy;
  • the development of a worldwide infrastructure-based natural composites industry has the potential to assist in providing poverty alleviation, higher employment, and cost-effective housing in many different countries.

 


The journal Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing is published by Elsevier and is available online at ScienceDirect.com.