Lanxess has added a new product to its Tepex line of continuous-fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composites. The company has committed to using more bio-based and renewable raw materials, both to conserve resources and to ensure that its own production processes are no longer reliant on fossil-based resources, and has now successfully developed a fully bio-based biocomposite.
“We have combined fabrics made from natural flax fibers with bio-based polylactic acid as a matrix material and thereby developed a composite manufactured entirely from natural resources,” Stefan Seidel, head of Tepex research and development at Lanxess, explained. “We are now able to produce it to a level of quality suitable for large-scale production.”
Not only is the new biocomposite entirely made from renewably-sourced materials, it is fully recyclable as part of closed-loop material cycles.
“Offcuts and production waste can be regranulated and easily injection-molded or extruded, either alone or mixed with unreinforced or short-fiber reinforced compound new materials,” said Seidel.
Flax fibres have a significantly lower density than glass fibres. The new flax fibre-reinforced composite is considerably lighter in weight than its glass fibre-reinforced counterparts.
Processed into continuous-fibre reinforced fabrics, the biocomposites demonstrate the mechanical performance typical of all Tepex products, which is based chiefly on the continuous fibres arranged in particular directions.
The weight-specific stiffness of the biocomposite is comparable to that of the equivalent glass-fibre-reinforced material variants. Designing the composite components to suit the expected loads enables most of the force to be transferred via the continuous fibres, allowing ‘the high strength and stiffness characteristic of fiber-reinforced plastics are achieved’, said Seidel.
The combination of flax and transparent PLA yields surfaces with a brown natural carbon fibre look, which serves to emphasise the sustainable aspects of the material, creating added visual appeal. In addition to sports equipment, the biocomposite is suitable for manufacturing interior car parts, or in electronics, housing components.
In the medium term, Lanxess is planning to use other bio-based thermoplastics such as polyamide 11 and other natural and recycled fibres in the production of Tepex.