Some day, the researchers at the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) will help design lighter, smarter vehicles, from electric cars to airplanes, that will employ bio-based materials with low-environmental-impact and high-performance characteristics that will make travel significantly more energy efficient. For now, however, they're starting with a snowboard.
"We wanted to develop our knowledge with biocomposites," explains AMRC researcher Alistair Murray. "We wanted to be ahead of the game in terms of our knowledge" of working with biocomposite materials, and what we could offer lab members, he says. (These members include Boeing, Rolls Royce, and a range of other blue chip firms in aviation, transportaion, and defense.) "So we made up some projects where we could get hands-on experience."
One of these was to create a snowboard using a core made by the Swiss firm Bcomp that is derived from recycled PET (like Coke bottles) and flax fiber. Instead of fiberglass or carbon fiber skins, Murray and his cohorts used flax fibers embedded in a resin containing 30 percent cashew nut husks epoxy. Because Murray was also planning a (ahem) sabbatical in Whistler this winter, he's been strapped with additional work: testing the board. Poor guy.