Hemp – the new composite material

It began in 2012 as a small-scale research project. Today it is a rapidly growing environmental venture. All thanks to ordinary hemp.

“Using natural fibre as reinforcement instead of glass fibre and carbon fibre is both strong and environmentally sound,” explains Jeremiah Dutton of Trifilon, exhibitor at Elmia Subcontractor for the first time.

Since the initial lab project five years ago, Trifilon’s development path has been as straight and fast as an arrow. In the last 12 months alone the company has gone from doing lab work to a production of about 10 tonnes, a figure that is predicted to reach no less than 20,000 tonnes by 2021.

“Hemp is an environmentally friendly material and it can also compete with other composite materials,” Dutton says. “It can’t be compared with carbon fibre – it’s not that strong – but hemp’s strength still makes it extremely useable.”

Trifilon uses hemp, which is one of the lightest fibrous materials, with 30 percent higher density than other materials such as carbon fibre. This gives excellent performance when hemp is used for reinforcement.

Hemp is also a rapidly growing plant that binds carbon dioxide up to almost 100 percent of its own weight.

“Hemp is strong and lightweight and grows here in Europe,” Dutton says. “It does not require the use of pesticides or herbicides and does not compete with food crops. To put it briefly, the more hemp, the more environmentally friendly.”

Currently the material is used in everything from lightweight vehicle components to suitcases and spectacle frames. It is also perfect for use in such products as acoustic tiles and needle loom felt materials.

“Today many people want an environmentally friendly material without masses of plastic additives,” Dutton adds. “Then hemp is a very useable product, for instance in the automotive industry, where it can be used in the existing injection moulding machines. A bit more hemp is required than glass fibre but the end weight of the product is the same. Plus it’s better for the environment.”

Published
11/14/2017
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Jeremiah Dutton of Trifilon predicts the widespread use of hemp as a composite material.
Jeremiah Dutton of Trifilon predicts the widespread use of hemp as a composite material.