Wool is great for clothes, could it be great for cars too?
We all know how good the warm embrace of a woolen jumper is. So what if you could wrap your car with the same cosiness? And no, we’re not talking about those shaggy seat covers.
Nor are we talking about sliding an actual knit over the top of your car.
Instead, Ford is looking to replace the petrochemical-based insulation in their cars with a woolen product.
Working with Dr Maryam Naebe at Deakin University, they’ve developed a lighter, more natural product that’s cost effective, sustainable, and biodegradable. The working solution has taken just over a year and a half to realise.
It results in a comparable material to what is being used now, plus it is odour resistant, flame retardant and has antibacterial properties. Current insulation materials are petroleum based microfibres which aren’t the greatest for the environment.
The material is made from scrap and virgin wool fibres that are wrapped in another non-woven fabric using needle-punching.
Naebe says that, “wool it is a very fantastic natural fibre with very fantastic properties in terms of the insulating, noise, and also a thermal insulator as well”.
As to whether or not the material has other application Naebe believes so.
“If we’re talking about just this material it can be used in the interior, not just insulation. We can tailor the property of the material based on the application in various areas of the car.”
The project could be echoed around the auto-industry as customers demand better fuel economy and governments and regulators impose stricter environmental considerations.
Wooln’ you know it
Natural wool is an incredible material that Australia just so happens to have aplenty.
Since sheep regrow their wool each year, it’s a renewable and biodegradable material.
Because of its breathability, wool regulates heat actively. Meaning it’s great in both hot and cold conditions.
It’s odour and UV resistant, has great elasticity and is stain resistant.
The burning point for wool is two to three times higher than cotton and synthetics and doesn’t melt, it simply just burns away.
All these properties are what makes the material so great for clothes, but they’re also perfect for an automotive application. The research team knew even before they developed the incredible material that Wool would be the answer to the car industries problems.
Naebe’s optimism abounds, “I am really positive about this project because the thing is, we have received fantastic support from Ford and I hope that we can continue the work.”
With other projects in the pipeline, including a new material for 3D printing, Naebe stresses the contribution of funding to finding sustainable solutions in the future.
“Without help from government and also without help from industry we may be able to do fantastic research but we don’t get anywhere without this sort of support. This is really something I would love to see further, in a way that we receive support from both government and industry for not only this project but for other projects.”