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Natural Fiber Composite Structure Crash-tested

Initial tests show excellent results and desired crash behavior

Stephen Moore

October 23, 2020

3 Min Read
Image: YCOM/Nicola Gennari

A natural fiber front impact absorbing structure (FIAS) has been successfully crash-tested for the first time. Designed by YCOM and using high performance ampliTex flax fibers from sustainable lightweighting specialist Bcomp, it proves that natural fibers can play an important role for structural- and safety critical parts.

The test proves the concept and opens the door for structural applications of natural fibers in motorsports. Benefits include lower CO2 footprint, viable end of life options, and no sharp debris

The crash box is designed to optimize the performance of the ampliTex natural fiber reinforcements and was tested at the FIA-approved test house Politecnico in Milan, producing results in line with a traditional carbon-fiber structures. The material not only shows the desired, even crash behavior required from a safety perspective, but also eradicates the danger of sharp splintering. Furthermore, natural fiber composites waste can be used for thermal energy recovery.

The test proves the concept and opens the door for structural applications of natural fibers in motorsports. Image: YCOM/Nicola Gennari

For the motorsports industry, this proves that high-performance natural fibers can be used for significantly wider applications than previously thought, reducing the environmental impact, and enabling technology transfer to mobility. The natural fiber FIAS prototype designed as a proof of concept is currently ca. 40% heavier than its carbon-fiber counterpart but still enables a CO2 reduction of approximately 50% on the composite side.

“Pushing the adoption of natural fibers requires engineers to integrate it from the first day of the design phase. Mastering the full process is the only way to optimize performance and thus increase the competitiveness of sustainable composite materials,” says Mario Saccone, YCOM co-founder and composite expert. “We are really happy to collaborate with Bcomp in this development. Motorsport is a forge for new technology development. This must be done fast and without any risk of error. YCOM has the right experience to embark on complex R&D projects, with the flexibility of the motorsport approach to accelerate product development.”

As industry and governments continue the fight against climate change, motorsport is playing a crucial role as a test bed for sustainable technologies. The motorsport industry enables products to be brought to market and tested in extremely short time frames and then, once proven, these technologies can be applied to high volume vertical markets including automotive, aerospace, and marine.

“This innovation offers new and existing racing series the opportunity to take sustainability to a whole new level,” says Johann Wacht, Motorsports manager at Bcomp. “Together with YCOM we have proven that the use of natural fibers is not limited to bodywork. In the right application it is a viable alternative for structural parts. By using sustainable composite materials instead of carbon fiber, we can significantly improve the CO2 footprint of high-performance parts and reduce the amount of carbon fiber that goes to landfills. As YCOM has shown, you can do this without compromising safety – actually, without sharp debris, safety can even be improved. By combining our sustainable technologies with the exceptional expert knowledge of YCOM we have shown that natural fibers have the potential to be used for structural parts as well as bodywork.”



About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

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