Bamboo you may associate with fast growing grass in Asia or in your garden. Ford associates it more with car manufacturing as bamboo could be a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to today’s artificial materials.
Bamboo is used tremendously, not least in Asia where the grass (bamboo is no tree), for example, is used for scaffolding when skyscrapers are built in Hong Kong. Bamboo is also used as material for some of the furniture we have in the home and in clothes and is well-liked as an ornamental plant.
This plant is popular because of its high flexibility and because it is extremely durable yet very lightweight. The fact that bamboo is next to an “infinite” plant also makes it extra interesting, because bamboo grows by three to five centimeters – per hour! In other words, it does not take long for the world’s tallest bamboo to reach its maximum height of 50 meters. When the bamboo is harvested, it grows quickly again because the plant is pruned rather than picked up by the root.
Like many other manufacturers of various products, Ford has opened its eyes to the many advantages of the bamboo plant and sees a climate-related gain in using the high grass in the production of cars. Their goal is to replace some artificial materials, which are often not particularly environmentally friendly, with bamboo.
Bamboo is an absolutely incredible material. It is strong, flexible, renewable and there are lots of it in China and many other parts of Asia, says Janet Yin, an engineer at the Ford Nanjing Research and Engineering Center.
The grass plant bamboo is found in an awful lot of what is used in our daily lives because of its strength and flexibility. In addition, it is so fast growing that you can almost see it shoot up in the eye, making bamboo a climate-smart material that Ford now wants to take advantage of. However, this is not the first time that bamboo has been associated with cars.
Ford’s team has concluded that a mixture of bamboo and plastic provides an extra durable material that has better properties, such as higher strength and extensibility, than comparable synthetic materials. In addition, it has been tested to heat bamboo to 400 degrees without the material hardness failing.
Ford does not mention which parts of the car could be transformed into materials based on bamboo, but we suspect that these are primarily interior details, although some other components could certainly be made using bamboo.