To make cars lighter so they consume less energy: This is the objective the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS has been working toward with fiber-reinforced composites in a joint research project with BYK Chemie GmbH and GK Concept GmbH . Fiber-reinforced composites boast the perfect properties for lightweight construction: high strength and rigidity at low density, good shock absorption, and high resistance to corrosion and atmospheric conditions. These materials make a “metal diet” for vehicles seem achievable.
For the research team, protecting the environment starts as early as during the manufacturing process: The team has developed a polymer blend of polypropylene and polylactic acid that can be synthesized from sugar cane and corn. The plastic sheeting is amalgamated with fibers discarded from regenerated cellulose and is pressed into highly stable panels. When further processed into DU tapes, the fiber orientation in the component can be directly adapted to the load curve in the subsequent application. The 70% bio-based semi-finished materials provide the perfect basis for the desired lightweight structure: They can help cut the weight in car interiors by up to 20%.