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Transportation Technology

Is Bamboo the Next Carbon Fibre? 198

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from the BBC about one very cool building material: "Real carbon fibre, mind, is still just as wondrous as it was in the last century, even if a bit more commonplace in road cars. But it's still very expensive to make in large pieces and quantities, it requires copious energy to manufacture, can be very brittle if made poorly, is not recyclable and can impose a detrimental impact of the environment when being produced. In other words, it is ripe for disruption. Technology stands still for no one. But could nature provide carbon fibre's replacement? So argues Gary Young, a renowned manufacturer of surfboards who has spent his life pioneering alternative materials use for that industry. 'With the right approach, bamboo can be used in many applications in the automotive world where its performance qualities can better carbon fibre's,' Young says. 'Plus, it does not have a negative effect on the environment.''"
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Is Bamboo the Next Carbon Fibre?

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  • One word answer: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:50PM (#47089331)


    Longer answer: No and it's not as eco-friendly as people would like you to believe.

    1. You need to farm it. Farms in general are never eco-friendly as they eliminate habitat.

    2. You still need to use epoxy to bond the strands together. This epoxy is nearly identical to the epoxy used in carbon fiber and fiberglass and is just as nasty.

    3. The claim that it would break down in landfills is bogus. Material decomposition in landfills is slow due to the anaerobic nature of landfills. Also, bamboo encased in epoxy isn't going to decompose like typical un-worked bamboo.

    And since bamboo is weaker than carbon fiber, but more expensive than fiberglass, I expect it to never take the place of either, except in decorative modes.

    Yes, I know, you can build a bamboo frame bicycle that performs well, but it's expensive and a novelty. When it's not done well....recoil in horror: []

    Yeah, I'll take a steel frame, plox.


  • Don't you mean... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by reve_etrange ( 2377702 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:50PM (#47089333)
    I think they mean, the first carbon fiber. (Not really, but certainly prior to synthetic carbon fiber).
  • The headline rule (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @06:08PM (#47089419)
    If a headline ends with a question mark, the answer is almost always "no". e.g."Is this an image of Jesus in a Danish pastry?" No. "Does this medieval painting prove UFOs?" No. "Could red wine be the cure for cancer?" No. etc.
  • by doti ( 966971 ) on Monday May 26, 2014 @06:35AM (#47091393) Homepage

    That looks sensationalist. Why then earth is not covered with bamboo?

    It think it depends on the species of bamboo, and the species they're competing against.

    I frequently visit a place with tropical forest near Rio since 1992, and there are some bamboo here and there, some of different species, and they stay pretty much the same size. They will only spread around if you make room for it by cutting nearby trees.

    There is a smaller species that do spread around quickly, but still can't penetrate the established forest.

  • Re:bamboo car (Score:4, Insightful)

    by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Monday May 26, 2014 @07:29AM (#47091483) Journal

    But makers shy away from nature's composite because it has a stigma

    It can be hard to guarantee the homogeneity and consistency in wood that auto manufacturers are used to having in their raw materials. A manufacturer can specify and source sheet steel for a car body, and be reasonably confident that the material properties will vary by, at most, 5% from lot to lot. Wood is much more highly variable, meaning that you need to build a larger margin of safety into the design.

    I'm not saying this prevents wood and other natural materials from being used in automobiles, it just requires different design and manufacturing processes.

  • Re:bamboo car (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2014 @10:40AM (#47092285) Journal

    It's not just "a stigma," there are many real problems with using wood in cars. It needs coatings to prevent it from absorbing water and rotting, which it will still happily do as soon as that coating is breached. It's an equal-opportunity absorber which will pick up other smelly and flammable chemicals from the car just as well - when using woods and fabrics you always have to be careful to avoid setting up something that could become a torch waiting for an ignition source. On that topic, without special treatments it will burn quite nicely. Without other treatments- or again if the treatment is compromised, it will biodegrade at a speed which will become a problem within the lifetime of the car. And finally as a material there is almost nowhere you could use wood where a metal, plastic or modern composite wouldn't do a much better job.

    So remind me again why the hell you'd want to use this stuff in a car? Even when I see racers building underbody aero parts from wood it makes me cringe...

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern