Today’s Solutions: May 20, 2024

Many surfers, divers, and others ocean lovers hold a strong desire to protect our marine environments from pollution and warming. However, some of the equipment these ocean enthusiasts use are not made of sustainable or eco-friendly substances.

For instance, stand-up paddleboards, while eco-friendly to use, are usually comprised of a petroleum-based polystyrene foam core, which is surrounded by a composite shell containing non-renewable materials such as epoxy resin, polyester resin, or polyurethane. These substances are very difficult to separate from each other, which means that most of the time the material won’t get recycled.

To rectify this, a team of German scientists, led by Christoph Pöhler, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research has partnered with colleagues from the Technische Universität Braunschweig to try and make an eco-friendly alternative.

Their solution is a lightweight foam made of balsa wood that is harvested from the cores of retired wind turbine blades. A hammer mill separates chunks of the wood from the glass-fiber-reinforced plastic shell that surrounds it. The collected wood is then finely ground and mixed with water to form a substance that resembles cake batter. Then, it’s processed into a firm but lightweight foam that holds together without added adhesives.

The watertight shell of the stand-up paddleboard is made of woven flax fibers combined with a completely bio-based polymer. The foam core is sandwiched into the shell by hand lay-up and vacuum infusion processes.

The team hopes that a finished prototype will be ready for its inaugural paddle before the end of next year, and if it’s successful, then this technology could green up the construction of buildings, ships, automobiles, and more.

Source Study: FraunhoferStand-up paddleboard made from renewable lightweight materials.

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