Ski poles, lightweight battery boxes for electric cars, and recycled textiles as reinforcement are the focus of new research projects

Studies show that every third Swede spends time out in nature every week. In the world of skiing and outdoor activities, the effects of climate change are becoming particularly evident, increasing the demand for equipment that does not harm the environment. The market is unexplored in terms of environmentally friendly alternatives and the products manufactured and sold today consist mainly of aluminium and carbon fibre.  

In the project Innovation in bio-based ski equipment manufacturing, Mikael Skrifvars, Professor of Polymer Technology and Project Leader, together with Pooria Khalili, Senior Lecturer, will investigate the possibilities of manufacturing ski and outdoor equipment from renewable bio-composites. The project will develop a large number of ski and hiking poles and then have them tested in practice by skiers and hikers.  The aim is to show that it is possible to produce flax fibre-based products for skiing and hiking.

“As many consumers in the sports and outdoor sector are asking for more renewable materials in the products they use instead of crude oil-based materials, flax fibre is a good alternative. It is a traditional plant fibre that has previously been widely grown for textiles in Sweden. Linen fibre has good mechanical properties and can be processed into yarn for the production of reinforcing materials for composites and can replace glass fibres," said Mikael Skrifvars.

“The project is a collaboration with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and several companies active in the manufacture and development of sports goods, providing an excellent opportunity to contribute our expertise and equipment for the development of fibre composites based on renewable materials.  The project also contributes to the circular transition by investigating how renewable materials can be used in the sports and outdoor sector in a sustainable way,” said Mikael Skrifvars.

Battery boxes for electric cars - lighter and more environmentally friendly

The second project, Biobased SandwichkomBio-based Sandwich Composites for “Plasma-Jute-e-Box” is investigating whether it is possible to produce a more environmentally friendly battery box for electric cars and at the same time reduce weight by using lightweight bio-based sandwich composites reinforced with jute fibre instead of glass and carbon fibre.

“Recent studies show that environmentally friendly treated jute fibres can maintain the same, or even offer better functional properties than glass and carbon fibres. In addition, jute fibre weighs less than the equivalent amount of fibreglass fabric, which means that it is also possible to almost halve the weight. Reducing weight is an advantage in cars and vehicles because it saves fuel," said Pooria Khalili, who is leading the project.

In order to increase the strength of the fibres to be used as reinforcement in the sandwich composites, they need to be pre-treated. Instead of using chemicals, which has a negative environmental impact, the fibres will be treated with plasma.

“In addition to the environmental benefits of using plasma processing, we expect that this will also give the bio-based sandwich composites better mechanical performance, making them more competitive in the automotive industry," concluded Pooria Khalili.

Recycled textiles as reinforcement material

Today, many textiles are discarded or burned according to their usual lifetime in different industries.  The Sandwich Composites with Recycled Textile Materials research project aims to investigate whether different cleaning processes and/or treatments can give the textile new life as reinforcement in specific composite applications.

“Textile waste in the form of both production waste and end-of-life textiles will be collected from Albany International AB, a company that manufactures textile materials used in the pulp and paper industry. The textile waste amounts to about 80-90 tonnes per year,” said Pooria Khalili, who is also leading this project.

By cleaning and treating the textile in different ways, it can be given new life and a new application. However, in terms of performance, sandwich composites or laminates cannot compete with today's glass and carbon fibre composites when it comes to more demanding applications, such as aerospace or automotive where requirements are very high. The idea is therefore to use the developed materials for less demanding applications with less stringent requirements.

“A first idea is that they can be used in the production of bathroom modules and bathroom floors. In addition to the positive environmental aspects, we expect the bio-based sandwich composites to be both cheaper and achieve better properties," concluded Pooria Khalili.


Read more

Research in polymer technology is carried out within the research area Resource Recovery.

Resource Recovery

About polymer technology research