A range of new biocomposites have been prepared from natural oils, resins, and fillers as diverse as glass fibers, clay, and agricultural co-products such as spent germ, corn stover, and soybean hulls.
Potential uses for biocomposites include electronics, shower stalls, corrugated and flat paneling, hog feeders, and underhood applications in cars.
Project Highlight: Biobased Carbon Fibers for Wind Turbine Blades
The Iowa State University Biopolymers and Biocomposites Research Team is investigating the production of carbon fibers from low-cost, lignin-based polymer blends for use in wind turbine blades. Michael Kessler, associate professor of materials science and engineering, leads the project.
Currently most turbine blades are made from glass fiber reinforced polymers. These glass fibers are dense and weaken over time under repeated stress, which limits turbine blade length and performance. New lightweight, low-cost blades need to be developed, which led Kessler to begin investigating carbon fibers that could replace the glass fibers currently used in wind turbine blade manufacturing. Instead of using expensive petroleum-based carbon fiber, his research group is exploring ways to use lignin, a renewable resource, to create low-cost carbon fibers for use in manufacturing wind turbine blades.