Sales of natural fibers for use as reinforcement materials in composites in Europe could increase to 40,000 50,000 tons by 2015 compared with 20,000 tons in 2010, according to a report in the latest issue of Technical Textile Markets—a quarterly publication from the global business information company Textiles Intelligence.
The global market for natural fiber composites reached a total value of US$2.1 bn in 2010, according to the U.S.-based market research company Lucintel, and demand for natural fibers and resins will continue to grow rapidly. Major reasons for using natural fibers: to reduce weight, achieve a better environmental balance, reduce costs, and manufacture complex structural elements.
Questions have arisen about the cost benefit of natural alternatives and the added challenges of consistency in quality control. However, it has been convincingly demonstrated by manufacturers and researchers that bio-based material composites can now be produced with major improvements in stiffness and strength. Fibers such as flax and hemp have already penetrated the automotive industry, the construction industry and the sports and leisure industry, and continued innovation will open up further opportunities.