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Flax fiber composite

A rapidly expanding application for flax fiber is as a reinforcement and filler in the production of flax fiber composites. The binding materials range from thermoplastics such as polypropylene to thermoset resins such as polyester or polyurethane. Typical applications include automotive interior substrates, furniture and other flax fiber based consumer products. Flax fiber is also being used to produce mineral based composites, in much the same way polypropylene or glass fiber is used to reinforce cement or plaster. The rising price of energy, particularly petroleum, is making these other reinforcing fibers more expensive and the excellent properties and cost of flax fiber are opening up new applications everyday. Description Linen is a bast fiber. Flax fibers vary in length from about 25 to 150 cm (18 to 55 in) and average 1216 micrometers in diameter. There are two varieties: shorter tow fibers used for coarser fabrics and longer line fibers used for finer fabrics. Flax fibers can usually be identified by their nodes which add to the flexibility and texture of the fabric. The cross-section of the linen fiber is made up of irregular polygonal shapes which contribute to the coarse texture of the fabric. Properties Highly absorbent and a good conductor of heat, linen fabric feels cool to the touch. Linen is among the strongest of the vegetable fibers, with 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. It is smooth, making the finished fabric lint free, and gets softer the more it is washed. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads. This wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during laundering. Linen has poor elasticity and does not spring back readily, explaining why it wrinkles so easily. Linen fabrics have a high natural luster; their natural color ranges between shades of ivory, ecru, tan, or grey. Pure white linen is created by heavy bleaching. Linen typically has a thick and thin character with a crisp and textured feel to it, but it can range from stiff and rough, to soft and smooth. When properly prepared, linen fabric has the ability to absorb and lose water rapidly. It can gain up to 20% moisture without feeling damp. It is a very durable, strong fabric, and one of the few that are stronger wet than dry. The fibers do not stretch and are resistant to damage from abrasion. However, because linen fibers have a very low elasticity, the fabric will eventually break if it is folded and ironed at the same place repeatedly. Uses In the past, linen was used for books (the only surviving example of which is the Liber Linteus). Due to its strength, in the Middle Ages linen was used for shields and gambeson (among other roles such as use for a bowstring), much as in classical antiquity it was used to make a type of body armour, referred to as a linothorax. Also because of its strength when wet, Irish linen is a very popular wrap of pool/billiard cues, due to its absorption of sweat from hands. Paper made of linen can be very strong and crisp, which is why the United States and many other countries print their currency on paper that is made from 25% linen and 75% cotton.They are now starting to be used as composite materials in Automotive Reinforcements ; Consumer Product Reinforcements and Building Materials.

Flax Fiber Composites for Building Materials: The use of flax fiber composites and other biofiber materials are expected to make large in-roads into home and commercial construction products in the years to come. The applications are numerous and flax fiber composites can help innovative companies achieve their goals of implementing sustainable and environmentally sound building practices that are both cost effective with superior features. Some of the products that are in the works include panel materials, utilizing flax fiber and earth-friendly binders as an alternative to wood-based panels such as flax plywood. New systems for blending flax fiber with concrete and stucco are already in place. Flax fiber based insulation is available in Europe and soon to be available in North America. Flax Fiber Composites Using Flax Core (Shives): There are a number of applications that can use the flax core fiber (often called flax shives) to produce additional flax fiber composites. These would typically include blending the flax core fiber (shive) as a powder with various plastic or cement based products. One example would be a flax core fiber composite blended with polypropylene to make an extruded composite decking product. Since the flax core fiber (shive) can be produced in different particle sizes it is highly versatile and easy to use.

Flax Fiber Composites for Automotive Reinforcements: Presently, one large use for flax fiber composites is for automotive products. There are a number of ways flax fiber can be used to create a biofiber based composite for automotive applications. A common application is to blend the primary flax fiber with polypropylene in a nonwoven (felt) mat that is then compression molded to form a three dimensional flax fiber composite based part. In the case of a flax fiber composite made from a blend of flax fiber and a thermoplastic such as polypropylene, the flax fiber based mat is heated to the melting point of the plastic, then placed into a matched metal mold, and compressed under pressure. The molded flax fiber composite part is removed from the mold, cooled and further attachments or finishings are added to the part. The flax fiber composite part would typically be used for interior trim applications such as a door panel, window pillar, package tray or trunk liner. In the case of a flax fiber composite made from a blend of flax fiber and a thermoset resin such as polyester or polyurethane, the flax fiber based mat is placed into a heated matched metal mold, sprayed with the thermoset resin, and then compressed under pressure. The molded flax fiber composite part is finished in the same way as other compression molded materials. There are a number of thermoset resins that are compatible with flax fiber to produce flax fiber composite products. Some of these are plant based, so that a 100% biocomposite is feasible. An example is a flax fiber composite utilizing a soy based binder for the production of automotive headliners. In addition to flax fiber composites from nonwoven materials it is also possible to make other flax fiber composites using thermoplastic and extrusion based technologies. The use of injection molding technology is possible using flax fiber as a reinforcing material. There are compounding systems that can blend flax fiber with different thermoplastics and extrude them for use in injection molding, thus allowing flax fiber composites to be produced in more complex shapes and structures at very high capacities. Flax fiber composites are of interest to automotive and other applications due to the following features: Cost effective; High tensile strength and stiffness; Ideally suited for needle punched nonwoven products; Effective replacement for glass fiber; Reduces molding time; Weight reduction in finished part; Easy to process and recycle; Can be customized to meet a variety of specifications and different manufacturing systems; Consistent quality and availability of supply is possible. ARALDITE More recentlly it has been used in the construction of the first ever racing boat prototype to incorporate up to 50% of natural flax fiber in the composite structure. The boat, which has been called the Araldite is a 6.5m long and 3m wide, ergonomic, lightweight Mini Transat racing boat prototype the smallest offshore racing boat allowed to cross the Atlantic. Designed by Regis Garcia to showcase the possibilities of incorporating flax fibers into the composite structure of an open sea sailing prototype the ultimate goal was to adopt a cleaner production process whilst combining the renewable properties of flax with the wellknown, high-performance characteristics of carbon fiber, without compromising the light weight or mechanical properties of the sailing prototype. In order to achieve this, Lineo, a Belgian company specialising in flax reinforcements, provided the diverse fibers, specially treated to ensure perfect compatibility between the flax and the Araldite warm curing system. Lineo uses new technology to coat flax fibers with epoxy resins in such a way that absorption of water from the flax is prevented and strong bonds between the flax and the epoxy resin are created, guaranteeing the quality of the laminate.

In total, flax fiber constitutes 50% of the boats reinforcement(the deck, hull, helm and toe -rails), with the remaining 50% being traditional carbon fibers.They have undertaken many, many trials to find and validate the right blend between flax, epoxy resin and carbon fibers, so as to realise the optimum performance for the boat, to absorb the vibration and to reduce the impact on the environment. Whit their succes in building the first prototype to incorporate natural flax fiber in the composite structure they showed that flax fibers can now be considered as a genuine reinforcement composite, with the potential to take on the mass fiber market and to even penetrate the carbon market. Flax Fiber Composites for Consumer Product Reinforcements: Many of the technologies developed for automotive applications can be used to make consumer products from flax fiber composites. It is possible to use compression molding, injection molding, simple hand lay-ups or hybrid technologies to produce consumer goods from flax fiber composites. Such products include furniture (chair backs or seats), sporting goods and recreational products, luggage, musical instruments and sound reinforcement gear. In most applications if the product uses glass fiber, then flax fiber most likely could be substituted as reinforcement in the product.

A Bright Future for Flax Fiber Composites: In the era of volatile and rising oil and energy prices and with changing environmental standards effecting traditional materials, the future is bright for flax fiber composites. The growing demand for flax fibre has and will continue to spur on innovation at all levels of the value chain. This will occur all the way from advancements in plant breeding to improve fibre yields and properties through to process and conversion technology optimization based around flax fiber composites.