You may have sat on it, or even seen it being used as a building material on holidays, but did you know that your car could be next to benefit from bamboo – one of the world’s strongest natural materials?
While investment in research has led to breakthroughs in new materials like super strong carbon fibre and lightweight aluminium, nature’s wonder material may have been growing all along and as much as three feet in a day. Soon, some surfaces inside our vehicles could be made from a combination of bamboo and plastic to create super hard material.
The benefits of bamboo have been recognised for more than a century – Thomas Edison even experimented with it when making the first light bulb. In building, its tensile strength (or how much it can resist being pulled apart) is well known, as it can rival, or even better, some types of metal. And, because it grows to full maturity in just two to five years – compared to up to decades for other trees – bamboo also regenerates easily.
Over the past several years, Ford worked with suppliers to evaluate the viability of using bamboo in vehicle interiors and to make extra strong parts by combining it with plastic. The team has found that bamboo performs comprehensively better than other tested synthetic and natural fibres in a range of materials tests, from tensile strength tests to impact strength tests. It’s also been heated to more than 100 degrees Celsius to ensure it can maintain its integrity.
The sustainable journey
While tests on bamboo continue, Ford is already making use of sustainable materials. The company uses several sustainable materials including:
- Kenaf, a tropical plant in the cotton family, is used in the door bolsters of Ford Escape
- Rice hulls are used to reinforce plastic in Ford F-150 electrical harness
- Soy-based foams are used as seat cushions, seatbacks and head restraints
- Wheat straw is used in Ford Flex to reinforce storage bins
- Cellulose tree fibres are used to replace glass-filled plastic, this industry-first material weighs 10 per cent less, is produced 30 per cent faster, and reduces carbon emissions.