The global bio-composites market is displaying phenomenal growth over the past few years. The increasing application of biocomposites across a host of end-use industries is positively impacting this market. Building & construction, consumer goods, and transportation are some key end-use industries of biocomposites. The increasing application of biocomposites is related to their virtues of moisture resistance, light-weight, low cost, and biodegradability.
Besides this, increasing demand for sustainable substitutes of synthetic composites is another key factor stoking demand for biocomposites. The low energy consumption for the production of bio-composites makes them a viable alternative of synthetic fibers. As such, biocomposites aka natural fibre composites are undergoing extensive R&D to learn their potential use. In particular, this century has witnessed key improvements in sustainable materials that are not harsh on the environment.
Unconventional it may be, Biocomposites find way in Consumer Goods
Beyond the advantage of sustainability, biocomposites have unconventional offerings. Agricultural produce that is usually associated with food needs may also find way in consumer goods, automotive, or sports goods. Biocomposites made from bio-based resins are making inroads into automotive components, building and construction material, apparel, and sporting goods. For example, bio-composites are finding use in the automotive sector to increase passenger safety. The use of bio-composites in place of their synthetic counterparts helps reduce vehicle weight.
Apart from this, bio-composites is replacing plastics in several other applications. Plastic waste is a serious environmental concern of civic authorities worldwide. To address this, civic bodies worldwide are imposing strict restrictions on the use of plastics, and encouraging the use of sustainable alternatives such as biocomposites.
From first use Several Decades ago, Biocomposites have come long Way
The first use of biocomposites dates back to several decades. In Europe, Fiat Car Company introduced use of biocomposites in 1972. The polymer introduced comprised 50 percent wood and 50 percent polypropylene woodstock to be used in vehicles. The material is still successfully being used in different markets.
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The use of biocomposites has witnessed continual expansion. Today, in the automotive sector, European automotive manufacturers use components that have as much as 70 percent natural fibers and only 30 percent oil-based resin. Kenaf or hemp is a widely used natural composite in the manufacture of automotive components. The advantages of environment conservation, excellent mechanical properties, and lightweight makes for long term economic advantages.
On the flip side, the global biocomposites market faces growth challenges as well. High cost of biocomposites is limiting its adoption especially in small-scale end-use industries. As biocomposites are made from natural fibers such as flax, wood, and cotton, they are more expensive than plastics.
In addition, low tensile strength of natural composites make them unsuitable for several end use. Lack of skilled labor to manufacture biocomposites is also deterring the growth of biocomposites market.