August 6, 2015

Safe motorcycle helmets – made of carrot fibers?

Detailed life cycle assessments for industrial products of the future

August 6, 2015)  Crackpot idea or recipe for success? This is a question entrepreneurs often face. Is it worth converting the production process to a new, ecologically better material? Empa has developed an analysis method that enables companies to simulate possible scenarios – and therefore avoid bad investments. Here’s an example: Nanofibers made of carrot waste from the production of carrot juice, which can be used to reinforce synthetic parts.

Motorcycle helmets consist of fiber-reinforced synthetic material. Instead of glass fibers, a biological alternative is now also possible: plant fibers from the production of carrot juice. Empa researchers are now able to analyze whether this kind of production makes sense from an ecological and economical perspective – before money is actually invested in production plants. 

All over the world, research is being conducted into biodegradable and recyclable synthetics. However, fiber-reinforced components remain problematic – if glass or carbon fibers are used. Within the scope of an EU research project, the Scottish company Cellucomp Limited has now developed a method to obtain nanofibers from carrot waste. These fibers would be both cost-effective and biodegradable. However, is the method, which works in the lab, also marketable on a large scale? 
An MPAS (multi-perspective application selection) method developed at Empa helps identify the industrial sectors where new materials might be useful from a technical and economical perspective. At the same time, MPAS also considers the ecological aspect of these new materials. The result for our example: Nanofibers made of carrot waste might be used in the production of motorcycle helmets or side walls for motorhomes in the future.

read entire press  release >>