A Sustainable Future with Flax InnovationsNov 27, 2022
Sustainability is at the forefront of everybody's mind. Innovators and designers are pursuing materials or processes to create more planet-conscious products, and flax fibre is leading the way.
As far as renewable sources go, flax's planet-friendly cultivation and reliable, mechanical performance properties work in synchronicity with sustainable innovation..
An icon in innovation
Technical flax fibre has remarkable properties:
- Vibration absorption
- Rigid and lightweight
- Thermal and phonic insulation
...properties that make the composite an unstoppable force across industries and applications.
How sustainable is flax production?
Natural fibres such as flax are not just carbon neutral; they can also be carbon negative.
The eco-friendliness of the technical fibre starts far earlier than its inception.
European Flax is a virtuous chain; responsible, ecological and traceable at every stage, with organisations like the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp (CELC) existing to ensure transparency of EU flax and linen.
Linen is consistent with the three pillars of sustainable development; societal, economic, environmental, and European regulations are among the most stringent in the world.
As well as being a zero-waste plant, flax requires minimal fertiliser, zero pesticides, and no irrigation, and the roots of the plant contribute to soil regeneration.
If any process was to compromise the otherwise ecologically nutritious method, it is retting. If farmers use chemicals or irrigation, retting can have harmful environmental impacts. However, assured European flax has a 100% natural retting process, eliminating this concern.
Throughout cultivation, flax fields act like carbon sinks, storing up to 400,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. This astonishing amount is equivalent to the CO2 emissions generated by driving a petrol Renault Clio around the world 100,000 times.
But, to make its planet-friendliness more relatable, let's look at a flax plant product you probably own - a linen shirt.
The environmental impact of a linen shirt is seven times lower than its cotton counterpart, and wearing this linen shirt for just one day saves almost 20 litres of water compared to a cotton shirt.
Contemporary Uses of Technical Flax Fibre
Prodrive Sustainable Composites
Prodrive has been a leader in developing sustainable composites for some time. Its P2T technology (primary to tertiary) reduces carbon fibre multiple times and was used in the rear wing for the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 race cars, for example.
John McQuilliam FIMM, director of engineering at Prodrive Composites said, "We have parallel developments using two approaches to sustainability, based on recycled fibres and natural fibres.
"Though our conventional composite manufacturing will continue, we expect the major growth in the business to be from recycled products, including the recycling of our products to make new parts."
With F1 announcing its plans to be carbon neutral by 2030, Prodrive expects a significant rise in demand for sustainable natural composites across the motorsports sector.
When we started creating the flax folding bike with Prodrive, we quickly realised how revolutionary our creation was for the industry. After walking, a flax folding bike is the most sustainable form of transport after walking, and it's the first of its kind to be made entirely of flax plant fibres.
The waste generated during production is biodegradable, much less harmful to dispose of and recycle, and even when your bike reaches the end of its lifecycle, the frame will eventually breakdown, unlike its carbon fibre predecessor.
After already hitting the spotlight on the tracks, Hummingbird and Prodrive brings the power of flax to the city streets; for the first time.
Vibration Absorption Tennis Racquet
Sports equipment specialists - Babolat - partnered with EcoTechnilin - an international supplier of natural fibres - to create the high-absorption 'NF2 TECH' tennis racquet.
NF2 TECH uses flax fibre at stress points of the racquet to absorb vibrations. Flax inserts in the handle and at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions on the racquet head dampen impact vibrations and optimise acoustics, creating a much softer sound at ball impact.
If the NF2 TECH is a success upon its launch in January 2023, we're confident the collaboration will be a gateway for the use of flax in sports.
Smart Circular Bridge
The construction industry has a huge carbon footprint and contributes to an immense consumption of resources. Luckily, decision-makers have realised something needs to give.
The EU project, Smart Circular Bridge, is developing three bio-composite bridges using flax fibres combined with a special bio-resin, creating a material with properties relative to steel or aluminium.
The Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands is leading the project, along with a consortium of 15 international partners. The first 15-metre bridge opened in the Netherlands in April 2022, with two more smart circular bridges to follow in Germany and a second in the Netherlands later in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
Bcomp Driving Sustainability
Natural composite manufacturer, Bcomp, is dominating high-performance flax innovations. The Swiss firm has developed two technical fabrics, ampliTex™ and powerRibs™, both of which uniquely use flax fibre.
The ampliTex™ range is a series of technical, lightweight natural reinforcement fabrics for high-performance fabrics. Its exceptional properties include:
- Non-catastrophic crash behaviour
- Vibration damping, specific bending stiffness and fatigue resistance
- Creative design options
- Radio transparency
ampliTex™ can be used in various manufacturing scenarios, and the quality, thickness and twist of the fibre are engineered for prime mechanical properties.
The material is in use across automotive, marine, and motorsports industries featuring an impressive portfolio of products, including:
- Bodywork components on the BMW M4 GT4
- Bodywork on the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4
- Baltic Yachts Cafe Racer 68
- Melker Kayaks
- Satellite panels for the European Space Agency
- Hublot luxury watches
- CAPiTA snowboards
If you want style, sustainability and substance in one package, discover our pioneering Flax Folding Bikes.