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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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  • bamboo car (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xicor ( 2738029 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:28PM (#47089195)

    i can see it now. cars made out of bamboo instead of plastic and metal. []

  • Negative Effects... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:31PM (#47089211) Homepage

    Well, that depends on a few things?

    1. What you plant.
    2. Where you plant it.
    3. Who your neighbors are, and your current relationship with them.

    Plant the wrong kind, or plant it without a 3' deep root barrier, and you will quickly have a neighborhood war on your hands. Expand this to commercial levels of production, and you could make a lot of people very angry with you.

    One thing is certain, though? Once you plant it, it is THERE for 15 years, at the very least. And you'll be exceptionally busy for every bit of those 15 years.

  • Bamboo Bicycle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:39PM (#47089257)

    Bamboo is already making its way into bicycle frame design. []

  • Recycleable? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by craighansen ( 744648 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:40PM (#47089267) Journal

    Carbon fiber itself is just as recycleable as bamboo fiber. However bamboo, once combined with epoxy, it's just as unrecycleable and toxic as carbon fiber. I've got several ASUS bamboo laptops, where bamboo was used instead of plastic for a portion of the case. It was marketed as better for the environment, but to me it was just more esthetically pleasing than plastic. The bamboo components held up better than the hinges and the electronics.

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:53PM (#47089353)

    expect the unexpected unintended side effects.

    I'm always glad to see new developments in materials science, but one of the potential issues that jumped out at me when I see them looking at plant based materials for cars is whether it will be tasty.

    Not that I envision a horde of Panda's attacking our new bamboo cars, but insects and rodents might well. There was a change made to the plastic sheath in automotive wiring some years ago to use a soy based coating, for example, and it turns out mice liked to eat it; dramatically increasing rodent damage to vehicle wiring -- I seem to recall an article where at least one manufacturer combated the issue by adding 'spices' to the coating to make it less appetizing.

    No idea if that's a concern with bamboo; but its something to consider; along with any number of other things maybe nobody has thought about. Only way to find out is to try, right :)

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

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @05:58PM (#47089377)
    Balsa wood was used in the Corvette. Wood it nature's original composite.
  • Re:Bamboo Bicycle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @06:50PM (#47089639) Journal

    I used it for some awesomely light bow limbs [] for their energy storage.

  • Hemp (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday May 25, 2014 @08:13PM (#47089937) Homepage Journal

    Henry Ford specified hemp fiber-based panels for his cars a hundred years ago, but a psychopathic government leveraged its corruption [] to benefit the tree pulp and synthetic fibers bosses, while claiming it was about social values.

    IIRC you'd need a blunt 4' long and 18" across to get a buzz from hemp, and you'd die from smoke inhalation first. It's a great cash crop for farmers, can grow in less fertile soil (while improving it), produces Omega-3 "on the vine" and is far more productive per-acre than trees. So, a clear economic threat to those friends of the powerful.

    It also makes fantastic long, strong fibers, once considered essential to national security [].

  • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Sunday May 25, 2014 @08:31PM (#47089973)

    My feet would always be cold and clammy after a day at work. Tried a bunch of different sock types... cotton, wool, Merino wool, synthetics, etc. Nothing helped.

    Then I tried Rayon from Bamboo socks (these guys []), and my god what a difference. Feet are dry and warm all day. They're the only kind I wear now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 25, 2014 @09:03PM (#47090065)

    "Just cut a piece of jungle and plant it there" is an example of how to create an environmental disaster.

    Many types of bamboo are incredibly resilient and incredibly invasive. Start planting it in very fertile soil - such as, say, a jungle - and in a couple of decades, there'll be a mile or so radius around your plantation where the native undergrowth has been pretty much completely supplanted by bamboo. In a couple of generations, the whole ecosystem will be FUBAR.

    Cultivate it properly, put in a solid (and expensive) root barrier. Oh, and if anyone lives nearby, do something about the frickin' mosquitoes. Otherwise, you're an environmental freeloader who deserves to be roundly beaten with a bunch of your own product.

  • Re:Recycleable? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deathguppie ( 768263 ) on Monday May 26, 2014 @08:37AM (#47091683)

    Alright, I've been working in the materials industries for years, so I can see there is a lot of strange info here.

    • First off carbon fiber is what you have after you burn everything else off. Yup that's how it's made, and it's not so environmentally friendly
    • Second, carbon is the hardest substance known to man. mixing it in varied amounts with a strong yet flexible binder like epoxy allows a product to have the best of both worlds in varied amounts, as per design.
    • Third, bamboo depends on it's cell structure for stiffness, and while it may be very stiff, it is not nearly as strong as carbon fiber by weight, and cannot be (carbon is as stiff as it gets)
    • Fourth, once the bamboo is soaked in epoxy it is no longer environmentally friendly. It was up till that point but no longer
    • Fifth, bamboo can rot, carbon can't. Which means that products made of bamboo have a life span, after which they will need a home int the dirt somewhere. Not necessarily so for carbon fiber
    • Sixth, Carbon fiber used in a thermal set mold, using a blend of carbon, and nylon woven together instead of saturated with epoxy is one of the most durable products I have ever seen, and because it is a thermoplastic based binder, it could most likely be recycled.

    There are many ways to use composites, of every type. In some cases not having to replace the product may be more environmentally sound than making it out of something semi-biodegradable like bamboo and epoxy. I'm just saying, that there are ups and downs to everything. It takes years and much useage to define the criteria, for environmentally sound, with any product. Wasn't to long ago I remember ethonal and biodesel were going to save the planet, and now we realize it's really not much better after all.

  • Re:Bamboo Bicycle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smart_ass ( 322852 ) on Monday May 26, 2014 @08:56AM (#47091785)

    Having seen the bamboo scaffolding in both Hong Kong and China first-hand, the bigger issue (from my point of view) is not the energy absorption, but rather the assembly / erection. Unlike steel scaffolding the has a defined assembly, bamboo tends to be assembled by lashing together the various bits with inconsistent amounts of rope, twine or those plastic packing strips.

    The problem here is that you are at the mercy (moreso) of he who assembled the scaffolding. If they were cheap or in a hurry things may fall apart. I was in Hong Kong during a severe wind storm around 5 years ago. It was bad enough that on the news they were advising ALL residents of all of Hong Kong to stay inside unless urgent.

    Several sets of scaffolding fell down during that storm.

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