Currently I am completing a PhD at the University of NSW on the effect of natural and induced defects on the mechanical properties (particularly toughness) of natural bast fibres in composites. For non-materials scientists, this means making something like fibreglass, but using Hemp and Flax instead of glass fibres. The research is under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Alan Crosky, and co-supervision of Jamie Hague at CSIRO, forest products division, in Melbourne (and formerly of the Biocomposites Centre in Bangor, Wales). Itís part of a wider project under the British Council, and in collaboration with the IRC for Advanced Materials at the University of Wales, Swansea, to produce an environmentally-friendly electric car. Our industrial partner is SP Systems in Australia.
the result of a UNSW press
release, our research gained a significant amount of attention from
the media - mainly because we made mention of our use of Hemp fibre. A
string of marijuana-related
followed from radio announcers and newspaper journalists. Fortunately,
there were still a number of papers and radio journalists that treated
it seriously. Here are links to such articles:
South China Morning Post (Note: you need to log in or register to view it)
BBC Radio "Up All Night" program
Article in UNSW "Chaos" Magazine
A lot of people (myself included) are convinced that the field of natural fibre composites is set to expand enormously in the near future. The environmental and health problems associated with synthetic fibres mean that they could, or should, be replaced by natural fibres in a vast number of different applications. An added bonus is that the fibres are cheap and lightweight, which makes them particulary attractive to the automotive industry. If you are in the same field and wish to exchange ideas, feel free to mail me at the address below. I have listed below some links to bast fibre composite information and other institutes or companies working on natural fibre composites or related issues. If you know of any good links I donít have here, please mail me with the URL.
For the information of others in the field, we are currently using long, combed, water- and dew-retted Flax and Hemp in an Epoxy resin matrix. We will be carrying out tensile and impact testing on unidirectional samples formed by a discontinuous pultrusion technique.
Email: (remove spaces) d r u y s @ m a t e r i a l s . u n s w . e d u . a u