A multi-partner project using flax fibres to develop composite materials has received €4.6m of funding. The FLOWER project will develop new biocomposite materials made from plant fibres for use in the automotive, advertising and yachting industries.

The FLOWER project (Flax composites, LOW weight, End of life and Recycling) teams researchers from the University of Portsmouth with French and UK institutions to develop low-cost flax fibre reinforcements. The aim is to supply sustainable, cost-effective lightweight materials to industry.  Composite materials used in these industries typically use glass fibres as reinforcements which are costly and have a high environmental impact.

The FLOWER project will substitute glass fibres for plant fibre reinforcements made from locally sourced flax fibres, a crop more commonly associated with making linen. The finished product will have a recyclable element, helping to lower the environmental impact compared to other composites reinforced with synthetic fibres.

The project will demonstrate the types of products that can be made with the linseed composites by creating a range of products including a prototype vehicle roof panel and a high performance hydrofoil sailboat.

Led by the University of South Brittany, FLOWER also brings together researchers from the University of Cambridge and research centre INRA in France, as well as four industrial partners. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which has awarded the University of Portsmouth €517,354 for its portion of the work.

Dr Hom Dhakal, leading the team at the University of Portsmouth said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to work with academic institutions and industrial partners from the UK and France where the project is fully focused on developing sustainable lightweight composites using flax fibre as reinforcement.”

He added: “This project has the support of many industries and the results will be shared with over 200 composite manufacturers in the Channel area to encourage the use and take up of the developed sustainable biocomposites.”