On 23 November 2023, the collaborative meeting between the Composite United1 working group ‚Biocomposites‘ and the ‚Natural Fibres‘ working group of the Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe2 took place at the Leibniz-Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe in Kaiserslautern, Germany. During the event, experts from both research and industry convened to discuss innovative and circular composite materials, and exchange ideas on new manufacturing processes as well as methodologies for life cycle assessment and analysis. The meeting also featured a presentation on r-LightBioCom, offering project insights and contributing to the ongoing discussions.
The collaborative meeting between the Composite United working group ‚Biocomposites‘ and the ‚Natural Fibres‘ working group of the Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe brought together experts and professionals from research and industry across the entire value chain. The objective was to address opportunities and challenges related to novel biocomposites as well as innovative manufacturing processes for sustainable and circular composites, and their life cycle assessment and analysis. The discussions also delved into perspectives and expectations regarding the materials‘ readiness for series production.
The meeting included a series of presentations followed by a workshop on ‘scenarios and approaches for biocomposites up to 2030’, integrating the content and results of the previous presentations into the considerations and discussions of the participants. Key topics of the workshop addressed sustainability of biocomposites and the expected share of biocomposites in industrial production by 2030.
As part of the presentation series, Prof. Dr. Luisa Medina from Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences showcased the development approach for bio-based composite materials within the r-LightBioCom project. The approach covers the entire spectrum, ranging from raw materials and composite development, including bio-resins, bio-based additives and formulations, as well as recycled and sustainable fibers. Further, she discussed innovative processing and production technologies, recycling methodologies, and the life cycle assessment (LCA), as well as the application of these materials in the automotive, infrastructure, and aeronautic industries.
Additionally, she provided insights into the ongoing project work led by HSKL in collaboration with project partners. This includes current work to hybridise bast fibres with high performance inorganic basalt fibres in nonwovens to improve the overall performance of composites without reducing the natural component ratio. The results of mechanical fibre characterisation of aramid fibres after different recycling processes were also presented. In this case, it can be noted that the residual properties of aramid fibres can reach a residual strength of up to 90%, so that further optimisation activities in this direction are promising.
In her presentation, Prof. Dr. Medina concluded that
- Future applications of biocomposites must not only demonstrate the use of biomaterials such as fibres or biopolymers, but also the use of optimised processes and technologies, as well as the recycling methods and the life cycle assessment (LCA) from the raw materials to the finished product.
- There is a good range of natural and recycled fibres on the market already available.
- Processes and technologies need to be adapted to new fibres and fibre hybridisations.
- Hybrid nonwovens made from bast, basalt and PP fibres could be produced on the existing standard lines.
The meeting provided an ideal platform to introduce r-LightBioCom to experts and professionals from all areas of the biocomposites and natural fibre-reinforced polymers value chain and to exchange ideas with them.
The Composite United working group ‚Biocomposites‘ and the working group ‚Natural Fibres‘ of the Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe are planning to hold another joint meeting in 2024 to continue the dialogue. Details will be published on the working groups‘ websites:
 Composites United: Network for fiber-based multi-material lightweight design promoting the industrial use of hybrid high-performance lightweight design composites and support their sustainable use; https://composites-united.com/en
 Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe (Federation of Reinforced Plastics): Interest group representing the plastics industry in Germany; https://www.avk-tv.de