You have probably sat on it, built with it, and maybe even eaten it, but did you know that your car could be next to benefit from bamboo – one of the world’s strongest natural materials?
While investment in research has led to breakthroughs in new materials like super strong carbon fibre and lightweight aluminum, nature’s wonder material may have been growing all along and as much as three feet in a day. Soon, some surfaces inside our vehicles could be made from a combination of bamboo and plastic to create super hard material.
“Bamboo is amazing,” said Janet Yin, a materials engineering supervisor at Ford’s Nanjing Research & Engineering Centre. “It’s strong, flexible, totally renewable, and plentiful in China and many other parts of Asia.”
The benefits of bamboo have been recognised for more than a century – Thomas Edison even experimented with it when making the first light bulb. In building, its tensile strength (or how much it can resist being pulled apart) is well known, as it can rival or even better some types of metal. And, because it grows to full maturity in just two to five years – compared to up to decades for other trees – bamboo also regenerates easily.
Over the past several years, Ford worked with suppliers to evaluate the viability of using bamboo in vehicle interiors and to make extra strong parts by combining it with plastic. The team has found that bamboo performs comprehensively better than other tested synthetic and natural fibers in a range of materials tests, from tensile strength tests to impact strength tests. It’s also been heated to more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it can maintain its integrity.
While tests on bamboo continue, Ford is already making use of sustainable and recycled materials. The company recently announced it is working with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s agave plant byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics to employ in Ford vehicles.