Move over carbon fiber, there’s a new eco-friendly material that’s lighter and twice as strong, and is derived from agricultural and food processing waste.
A Scottish sustainable materials company is on the verge of launching a revolution in renewable and eco-friendly nano-fibers, which could be the future of high performance coatings, composites, and threads.
CelluComp’s proprietary process can separate cellulose from root vegetables such as carrots and sugar beets without the need for any strong chemical agents, and the resulting nano-fibers can be used to produce composites that are not only strong and stiff, but light as well, and are said to compare with current carbon fiber technology.
The nano-fiber product, which is called Curran® (Gaelic for carrot), can be used as a composite with a variety of resins, or in water-based polymers, to reinforce paints and coatings, to form laminated sheets, to add to concrete to increase flexure, and even spun into thread.
While the team began their development process with carrots from the local grocery store, and then moved on to using Grade B carrots (imperfect carrots that aren’t desirable or salable as a produce item), CelluComp is currently focusing on using sugar beet pulp, which is considered to be an agricultural waste product.
“Curran® is manufactured from waste streams produced by the food processing industry. Common raw materials are carrots or sugar beet and, because only materials otherwise discarded by the food industry are used, it does not compete with food crops for scarce land.
CelluComp is working with major players in the food processing industry to optimise use of vegetable waste. Compared to other existing materials used as rheology additives, Curran® has a low carbon footprint due to its efficient process, uses far fewer chemicals and emits no toxic gases into the atmosphere. ” – CelluComp
According to Modern Farmer, due to supply issues, the company is now moving away from carrots, and Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of CelluComp, says that “The future is sugar beets — that’s where we’re headed next.”
Curran® is produced in a thick paste or a slurry, or as a free-flowing powder, all of which can be handled by conventional mixing equipment already in use in manufacturing. The paste can be formed into sheets and dried, and the resulting material, which is 85% cellulose fiber and 15% resin, is incredibly stiff, light, and strong.