Through the efficient combination of processing techniques and material, environmentally friendly polymer composites were developed for structural applications in automotive engineering.
Bio-based composites in automotive applications are evolving rapidly. This can be tied to environmental sustainability, weight saving, and economic advantages. Still many automotive parts such as underbody panels, wheel cases, and under-the-hood components are yet made from conventional glass and carbon fiber reinforced plastics. In this fundamental research project we closely examined the suitability of fully bio-based composite systems based on short wood fibers, thermosetting and thermoplastic resins, and hybrids thereof for specific automotive applications. To fulfill the requirements the processing and component parameter space was explored and adequate processing techniques and component formulations were acquired. Streamlining property dependent variables has given rise to an economically viable and simple processing route that led to properties even superior to those of long natural fiber composites, especially in case of heat deflection temperatures and mechanical properties for automotive applications. In perspective, the current research focuses on the further development of the bio-resins’ chemistry in order to increase the crack resistance of the materials, and to understand the corresponding toughening mechanisms.