BIRECO - Fire-safe bio-resin composites for sustainable lightweight structures

Lead Participant: Netcomposites Limited

Abstract

When lightweight fibre-reinforced polymer composite materials are used in fire-sensitive applications, such as aircraft interiors, underground trains or oil rigs, the state of the art solution is to use phenolic (also known as phenol formaldehyde) resin systems. Under fire conditions, phenolic resins form a stable surface char that inhibits the yield of flammable volatiles and provides a protective fire barrier coating. However, phenolic matrix composites
are not without their compromises, particularly in terms of health and safety (formaldehyde is toxic and a known human carcinogen) and sustainability (given their petrochemical basis).
As a direct substitute for phenolic matrix composites, NetComposites has developed a preimpregnated (“prepreg”) composite material using a 100% bio-based polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) resin system. Compared to phenolic resins, PFA resins offer significant advantages- they are non-toxic, free of volatile organic compounds and sustainably-derived from waste agricultural biomass. Furthermore, and importantly, PFA resins provide these benefits without
any compromises in terms of basic mechanical performance, fire performance, processability or cost compared to phenolics.
To date, NetComposites has produced materials using a single PFA resin formulation and a limited range of reinforcing fibre types (mainly glass, some carbon, some flax). Initial feedback from potential end-users has been extremely encouraging, but has also highlighted further development requirements and opportunities. There is also a need to develop robust
market entry strategies, complemented by end-user sampling, to ensure that the ongoing developments are targeted in the most effective way. Finally, it will be necessary to undertake representative production trials to demonstrate the upscaled manufacturing of the PFA-based composite materials.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Netcomposites Limited, Chesterfield £507,235 £ 228,255

Publications

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