Peter Anderson | Oct 2, 2012

Ford and forest-products company Weyerhaeuser are working to develop a replacement for fibreglass, focusing on a new cellulose-based material.

The research is still in its early stages, but Ford's biomaterials team is confident the new material will find its way into the brand's global products.

“Cellulose fibre is a great renewable resource that already has established infrastructure around the world, making it an ideal material for Ford’s global products," Dr Ellen Lee, leader of Ford's plastics research team said.

The cellulose by-product is derived from sustainably grown and harvested trees that Weyerhaueser uses for its core business, producing products like woodchips.

Ford says that using the cellulose in place of traditional plastics or fibreglass helps reduce the carbon footprint of the production process.

The carmaker isn't putting a concrete dollar figure on the savings possible using the cellulose composites, but the carmaker says its early data is promising.

Ford believes that the cellulose-based components can be up to 10 percent lighter and produced around a third faster and with less energy than fibreglass.

The weight and production process savings mean that the alternative product can cost the same or less than the usual methods, a critical consideration in car manufacturing.

The cellulose research is part of a growing list of renewable materials in use by the carmaker, including soy beans - used to create the fabric of cushions in some of its North American made vehicles.

The saving from this method alone amounts to around 2.25 million kilograms of petroleum every year.

Other sustainability moves include the use of recycled bottles in seat fabrics and carpets. The US-market Fusion (Australia's next Mondeo) uses recycled carpet in its cylinder head covers, and discarded denim jeans are used for sound-deadening.

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