WALES — The car of the future could be growing in a field right now if Welsh plant scientists have their way.

They are playing a leading role in developing new car parts made out of flax, hemp, cotton and willow.

The team of bio composites experts at University of Wales, Bangor, is working with Government scientists and Ford to create trial panels which will be road tested for durability and performance.

It is intended to have production versions running by 2007.

The four-year project paid for by the Department for the Environment essentially transforms the cultivated plant fibres into a mat which is then turned into a panel or other component.

It is similar to the way fibre-glass matting is made into body components except that the plant fibres replace the usual glass fibres.

The invention is being managed by the Government’s wholly-owned science and technology company QinetiQ which has emerged from the reorganisation of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency at Farnborough in Hampshire.

Bio mat project leader, QinetiQ’s Robert West, said, “The search for more durable, ecologically sound materials is very prominent in a process of technological change that is enveloping the industry.

“With Bio mat, we hope to see an early adoption of our technology which could significantly support the automotive industry in its efforts to meet its green goals.”

The Bangor scientists are working on matting which would be converted into interior components but also inlet manifolds on the engines.

Ford was experimenting with body panels made from soya plant fibres in 1941 and the Ford Mondeo and Focus models already use some plant materials in the door interior panels.

These plant materials are woven together with man-made fibres for door casings and armrests and the natural bending characteristics of the plant materials makes it particularly suitable in reducing the effects of side impact crashes.

A spokesman for Ford said, “One of the additional benefits of using plant materials is their natural flexibility and shock absorption in safety situations where man-made materials do not ‘give’ as much.”

He added that the four-year project would include studying the water absorption of Bio mat and its bio-degrading characteristics but the scientists and technicians were working towards production components in four years.

Apart from materials technology, the car makers are looking at alternatives to petrol and diesel.


Pubdate: Friday, January 3, 2003
Robin Roberts, The Western Mail
Provided by: www.globalhemp.com