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Posted: February 9, 2007
Carrot nanofibers to make snowboards and battleships
(Nanowerk News) Innovations in new materials have been one of the key drivers in the rapid progress of technology during the past decades. The two best-known and widely-used examples being glass fiber and carbon fiber reinforced plastics (GFRP and CFRP), which are ubiquitous in many applications. However, neither of these materials have Green credentials. An alternative could be high performance biocomposite materials that have desired properties between GFRP and CFRP, are derived from sustainable materials and utilize greener, lower energy intensive production methods.
Enter the humble carrot.
To be used in ways never imagined before, thanks to a discovery by two Scottish scientists who have found a way to convert the vegetable into an advanced material to make products from fishing rods to warships. The first product of their company, CelluComp, – a rod for fly fishing – goes on sale next month.
But they are not stopping there. The pair now plan to move on to make snowboards and car parts and say the material could also be used to make engineering components and even battleships.
The material is also more environmentally friendly than current methods using glass and carbon fibers. At the moment, the company can make materials which are around 80% carrot, with carbon fiber making up the remainder. The new "Just Cast" rods are around 50% carrot - each made with around 2kg of the vegetables.
But it is hoped that as the technique is developed, they will eventually be able to make products which are made from 100% biological matter - carrots and other plants.
Dr Hepworth said they were already looking at using other vegetables such as turnips, swede and parsnips. The inventor said the material was kinder to the environment because carrots are a renewable resource - unlike the oil used to make carbon fibers. And he said that when the material was burnt, the carbon it created was cancelled out by the carbon absorbed by the carrots when they were growing.
"The potential is enormous and if we can replace just a small percentage of carbon fibers in products the effects on the environment could be significant and wide-ranging.
How the carrot is transformed
CURRAN – a carrot-based material – is manufactured using a top-secret method that has been five years in the making. The process basically involves taking carrots and breaking them down into small particles using a special mechanical process. The strong nanofibers from this carrot "soup" are then extracted so that they can be processed in a variety of ways. Most of the water is removed and hi-tech resins are added to the mix. This mixture can then be moulded and heated to make a strong material.
The inventors said they used carrots because they were common and had qualities that meant strong and tough materials could be created. They were also cheap to buy in large numbers. The same technique could now be applied to other vegetables, such as turnips, swedes and parsnips.