You don’t often think of glass reinforcement as an issue when it comes green engineering. But engineers at Ford Motor Company are taking a different tack.
Dr. Deborah Mielewski, who heads plastics research at Ford, is studying several different plant materials as a substitute for glass as reinforcement in plastics. One of the big payoffs is a 30 percent weight reduction. The other issue, she says, is that glass fiber is a very energy-intensive process. Mielewski’s six-woman engineering group is taking a close look at kenaf, hemp, coconut hair (coir), and wheat straw.
Now comes news that glass giant Owens Corning wants to reduce the environmental footprint of glass fibers used to reinforce plastics. The company will re-start a glass fiber reinforcement manufacturing facility in Italy that has been converted to a boron- and fluorine-free process called Advantex. The new process is also more energy efficient, resulting in less demand for fossil fuel and emissions reductions of up to:
- 40 percent carbon dioxide
- 75 percent nitrogen oxides
- 40 percent sulfur oxide
- 90 percent particulates