DaimlerChrysler replaces glass fibers with natural fibers

DaimlerChrysler replaces glass fibers with natural fibers image

Text: / Photos: | posted May 11, 2005 00:00

Natural fibers are becoming more and more important as industrial raw materials because of the economic and ecological benefits they bring. And the automotive industry in particular is currently moving fast to replace artificial fibers in composite materials. DaimlerChrysler, the company behind brands such as Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Mayback and smart, has been the biggest proponent of these materials. The company has already been succesful using natural fibers such as flax, hemp, sisal and coconut for several years in their vehicle interiors. And now for the first time,, a natural fiber component is being used in the underfloor protection of their passenger cars. This new source of natural fiber called abaca is about to make a name for itself.

Accord to Ralph Greiner, Natural Fiber Project Leader at DaimlerChrysler Research in Ulm, the abaca fibers are the world's longest and strongest natural fibers. They are extremely light and are real high-performance fibers. Native to the land of Leyte in the Philippines, the abaca fiber is the first natural fiber to meet DC's strict quality requirements for components used on the exterior of road vehicles with resistance to influences such as stone strike, exposure to the elements and dampness. Because of these findings, a significant alliance between the European Natural Heritage Fund, University of Hockenhein, Germany, Leyte State University and DC has given birth to the Private-Public-Partnership-Abaca Project in the Philippines.

The project is implemented to arrive at a sustainable production of consistenly high-quality abaca fibers in the Philippines as a substitute for glass fibers in the manufacture of composites for the production of interior and exterior parts of luxury cars and automobiles. This substitution is expected to offer tremendous advantages to technology by reducing the weight of cars and improving stiffness and damping characteristics of the car parts; to the economy, due to the cost reduction in the manufacture of parts in the country where the raw materials are produced; to the rural people, due to the involvement of beneficiary communities and small abaca producers in the different economic activities generated by the project; and to the enivronment, due to the reduction of emissions in automobiles as a result in the reduction of weight of cars and protection of the environment as a result of planting abaca in different agro-systems.

The success of this project will benefit everyone: the researchers, private sectors, rainforests, a whole lot of flora and fauna, and of course the people of the Philippines especially in the island of Leyte.