Stronger Natural Fibers for Composites

collage of natural fibers for composites
Figure 1. Left: Plants remove CO2 from air. Bamboo is shown. Center: We engineer the plant’s chemical intake process so that the plant has stronger fibers. Right: These strong natural fibers are used to make low-CO2 composite materials. Forming of tubes from bamboo-reinforced composite sheet is shown.

Natural fibers as reinforcement of polymer composites gain attention due to their:

  • remarkable mechanical properties
  • low cost
  • carbon-neutral nature
  • recyclability

Natural fibers outperform glass and carbon fibers in CO2 balance. For example, bamboo captures 77 kg CO2/clump/year. However, mechanical properties such as strength and stiffness need to be enhanced to allow replacing glass and carbon fibers.

Our breakthrough idea will lead to reinforcing natural fibers by incorporating nanoparticles (e.g., carbon nanotubes, metal clusters, graphene) in plants as they are growing. The uptake nanoparticles will then be naturally incorporated into the fibers or leaves to improve mechanical performance.

Faculty: Miki Banu and Alan Taub

Read the research projects to learn about our innovative solutions.