As a demonstration object and idea mediator, we have chosen a stand-up paddleboard, as it has to fulfill strict requirements as regards mechanical strength in combination with moisture, saltwater and UV-resistance.
Currently, petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin, polyester resin, polyurethane and expanded or extruded polystyrene in combination with glass-fiber and carbon-fiber fabrics are used to produce watersports equipment such as surfboards. Glass fiber-reinforced plastics (GRP) are also enjoying a continuously growing market in other economic sectors. Across and beyond the industry boundaries, the European market for GRP in 2018 amounted to around 1.1 million tonnes and therefore offers a high potential for savings as regards finite resources.
Our research approach is characterized by, amongst other things, the utilization of recycled balsa wood as the core for the new bio lightweight-construction material and its corresponding modification. Balsa wood is used in large quantities in the rotor blades of wind-energy turbines and accumulates as waste at the end of the life cycle of the rotor blades. In order to achieve the longest possible CO2 binding, it would be wise to find material-recycling possibilities for the balsa wood instead of using it thermally, i.e. simply burning it. Through the reutilization as a core component in lightweight-construction materials for watersports equipment and other applications, the balsa wood could consequently be materially recycled.
In addition, we are developing an outer shell made of natural fiber-reinforced bioplastics (Bio-NFRP). We are hereby concentrating on the application of flat fibers, as they have advantageous mechanical properties and are cultivated in Europe.
In order to ensure competitiveness against conventional lightweight-construction materials, we will subject the new bio-hybrid material to diverse tests. It should not only be more ecological but should also offer technical advantages for lightweight-construction applications as a result of its high specific strength.
The aim is to transfer the bio-hybrid material to further areas of watersports and other industries at a later stage. Conceivable applications include the construction sector, shipbuilding, the automotive and railway industries and beyond.
Overall, the substitution of petrochemical and mineral components by renewable and, in some cases, additionally recycled raw materials offers high savings potential in terms of energy requirements and finite resources.
With our project, we are supporting the development of a bio-based economy (bio-economy).