Ford explores using one of the world’s strongest natural materials
Combined with plastic, bamboo-based materials offer a sustainable option with excellent tensile strength, rivaling certain metals.
Auto manufacturers are constantly trying to push the limits of vehicle design by integrating in the latest materials. Ultra-strong carbon fibre and lightweight aluminum are some of the more common materials used by engineers. However, Ford is looking to different type of material, bamboo — one of the world’s strongest natural materials.
The car manufacturer believes that a super hard material, a combination of bamboo and plastic, can be used for interior surfaces of its vehicles. There are some significant benefits with using bamboo — it offers excellent tensile strength and grows rapidly making it easy to regenerate.
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 better than other tested synthetic and natural fibers in a range of materials tests, from tensile strength tests to impact strength tests. It’s also been heated to more than 212°F to ensure it can maintain its integrity.
“Bamboo is amazing,” said Janet Yin, a materials engineering supervisor at Ford’s Nanjing Research & Engineering Centre. “It’s strong, flexible, totally renewable, and plentiful in China and many other parts of Asia.”
While the company is still testing out the various bamboo applications, it is making use of sustainable and recycled materials. Ford recently announced its use of a new honeycomb design using a combination material including cardboard and glue for interior shelves. The automaker also partnered with Jose Cuervo to use agave plant byproduct.