SBIR Phase I: Natural Fiber-Reinforced Bio-Based Thermoset Resin Composites

Period of Performance: 01/01/2008 - 12/31/2008


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Materials Innovation Technologies, LLC
320 Rutledge Road
Fletcher, NC 28732
Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop natural fiber-reinforced bio-based resin composites that are appropriate for use in exterior applications on vehicles (automobiles, over-the-road trucks, and recreational vehicles). These bio-based engineering materials are interesting to automotive and truck manufactures because of their light weight, potential low cost, and low environmental impact. However, these composites tend to be highly sensitive to moisture. That sensitivity is one of the main barriers to commercialization for bio-based composites. Currently, no natural fiber-reinforced composites are used as structural components in transportation applications because of the moisture sensitivity issue. The approach is to investigate combinations of fiber type, fiber processing, and resin chemistry to produce composites with strong interfacial bonding and properties that are the least sensitive to moisture. It will be determined how the type of fiber (kenaf vs. flax), the processing of the fiber (degree of fibrillation, and surface modification), and the type of resin (soybean oil-derived resins vs. modified phenolics) affect the mechanical properties of the composites and their moisture sensitivity. It is anticipated that within this experimental space will be combinations that produce good interfacial bonding between resin and fiber which will lead to reduced moisture sensitivity. Natural fibers and bio-based resins have the potential to replace fiberglass and synthetic resins derived from petroleum in a variety of composite applications. The most likely opportunities