Environmentally Friendly Composites

Many experts argue that composites already are very environmentally friendly based upon their long life span and their good strength-to-weight ratio that saves energy.  Many composites structures have long made use of end-grain balsa wood as a core material.  This is a renewable resource that is favorable to the carbon footprint.

The strikes against fiberglass composites as being environmentally friendly point out that most of the resin systems are derived from oil and natural gas feedstocks.  Most of these feedstocks come from the extra byproducts of making diesel and gasoline.  Fiberglass reinforcements consume lots of energy in their manufacturing process.

Resin and reinforcement companies have been working to “green” composites materials.  BioResins have been successfully made and used in products that see the real world.  These resins use soybean and corn feedstocks to replace the oil and natural gas derivatives to make them from a renewable source.  Much work has been accomplished with reinforcements to move towards natural materials.  Hemp has proven very useful in this application.  Recycled thermoplastics have also been applied to composites products as a reinforcement.

Further research and development, along with identifying appropriate real-world applications will allow composites to flourish as a true sustainable material.  It has already proven to be a great material for lightweighting vehicles and structures to result in great energy and material savings.  The long life and durability of composites keeps it from landfills to minimize environmental impact.

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