Composites are changing all types of products and industries, but aerospace is definitely reaping a full range of benefits from new materials that are stronger, lighter, and extremely versatile. Their high strength-to-weight ratio makes them ideal for use in all manner of aircraft applications.


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Carbon fiber composites now make up much of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, Bombardier’s Learjet 85, and many other crafts, but carbon fiber isn’t the only composite that may help the industry reach new heights, especially in the increasingly important factor of sustainability.

Creating A Clean, Sustainable Aerospace Composite
Researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) are pioneering the use of plant materials in aerospace and automotive components. By using the fibers of hibiscus and pineapple plants, the UPM researchers are hoping to create a clean, sustainable composite that will securely and safely function as an aerospace or automotive fastener.

Identifying And Isolating The Right Properties
The fibers of both plants contain natural, petroleum-based polymers that could be used as a strengthening element in a range of aerospace applications. Currently, the researchers are working to identify the source of durability in the plant fiber, and if it can offer potential smoke-proof and waterproof properties.

Credit: Fritzflohrreynolds

As research is expected to continue through 2018, the team hopes to conclude what plant fiber elements will be most useful and subsequently determine if they can comply with aviation safety standards.

Large Companies Reaching Out To Sustainability Startups
Besides playing a potentially revolutionary role in aerospace and aviation, bio-materials are on their way to becoming a more prominent sustainable solution for commercial and industrial productions. This includes plant-based flexible materials that could be used as a reliable alternative to non-biodegradable plastics.

Large companies like Coca-Cola, which recently debuted a soda bottle prototype made from 100% plant-based plastic, are now turning to startups and smaller manufacturers to help scale up material production.

Credit: lasta29

Learning What Can Biomaterials Accomplish
While there is a lot more to consider in developing a plant-based composite that’s designed to function on a plane, as opposed to a material simply meant to contain a soft drink, we may be closer to the day where strong, lightweight, and truly sustainable materials can successful accomplish either, or both.

What are your thoughts on the growing research of bio-materials and composites? What are your thoughts on using them as alternatives to conventional metals like plastic, aluminum, and steel? Has interest in sustainable materials had an impact on your business? Tell us in the comments.

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