Known as BAMCO (Bamboo long fibre reinforced biobased Matrix Composite), this innovation will eventually reduce the environmental footprint of aircraft, as well as delivering benefits that extend well beyond the aerospace industry.
Controlling its environmental impact is an increasing concern for industry. In aerospace, research is focusing specifically on the design of new materials. Some polymer composites, including the glass/phenolic composites currently used, will soon be impacted by the European REACh regulation. As a result, there is an urgent need to develop equally effective alternative solutions.
For the last four years, Assystem Technologies and CIRIMAT have been working closely together on the concept of a biocomposite created using continuous bamboo fibre to reinforce a biosourced thermoplastic matrix. Already validated in the laboratory, this concept must now be validated on the industrial scale.
The FUI BAMCO collaborative project aims to respond specifically to this challenge by developing new biocomposites created from long bamboo fibres. Although there are already other solutions available that use flax or hemp fibres, these biocomposites are completely new and unprecedented materials that could beneficially replace glass/phenolic composites as a result of their lightness (reducing overall weight, and therefore fuel consumption), their thermal resistance and the mechanical properties in terms of strength and impact/vibration absorption. The cultivation of bamboo also delivers an effective response to a series of ecological imperatives: rapid growth with low water consumption, low soil usage and the absence of any need for fertilisers or pesticides.
In aerospace, BAMCO composites could be used in cabin interiors, in cover panels and fuselage cladding panels, and even in the onboard galleys used to prepare and store in-flight meals on aircraft. They could also have applications in the manufacture of finished components for use in the marine and leisure sports markets.
Certificated by the Aerospace Valley competitiveness cluster, and approved by the Direction Générale des Entreprises (DGE) for inclusion in the FUI 24 single interministerial fund earmarked to provide finance for competitiveness cluster projects, the BAMCO project is supported by the French regions of Occitanie Pyrénées-Méditerranée and Normandie, as well as by Bpifrance. It draws on the expertise of eight industry stakeholders, company and research laboratory consortium members.
The BAMCO project is supported by Assystem Technologies, the world-class partner in engineering, quality and digital solutions, which has developed this innovation. With its in-depth experience of materials engineering and aerospace industry expertise, Assystem Technologies is involved in designing the prototype components. It also provides the governance structure for this extensive project, with its important implications for tomorrow’s industry.
Arkema and Specific Polymers have responsibility for the formulation and application of the biosourced polymers used for the composite matrices.
Cobratex will research and propose candidate species of bamboo, some of which are grown in France. In responding to the constraints involved in using the full range of matrices and composite processes, Cobratex will optimise its own conversion process, as well as its own innovative reinforcement technologies. The company will also be responsible for the upscaling of the techniques used to apply the technical reinforcement solutions and semi-finished products developed directly by CIRIMAT.
The research laboratories CIRIMAT and Compositadour are involved in using the biocomposites in the laboratory, and on an industrial scale respectively. The CIRIMAT contribution focuses on the design and laboratory-scale production of continuous bamboo fibre composites using thermoplastic and thermosetting matrices.
Mécano ID is responsible for conducting the vibration absorption tests and modelling biocomposite behaviour.
Lastly, plane maker Lisa Aeronautics will incorporate a prototype component in its future aircraft.
The BAMCO has just entered its operational phase with the launch of development work. The first prototype components are scheduled for 2021.