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From Science & Research

From Science & Research Carrot Steering Wheel and Chocolate Biodiesel Researchers at the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, recently unveiled the ‘WorldFirst Formula 3 racing car’ which is powered by chocolate, steered by carrots, has bodywork made from potatoes, and can still do 200 km/h (12mph) around corners. Seat shell made of Lineo woven flax prepreg Following the recent turmoil in Formula 1 arising from the high costs of running competitive motor racing teams, and doubts in sponsors’ minds over the commercial value of their involvement, the viability of motor racing is being critically questioned. With this in mind the University of Warwick team based in the University’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC) decided to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components in order to show the industry just how much is possible using current environmentally sustainable technologies. The ‘ecoF3 car’ project is being managed by James Meredith, an engineer with over years experience in the automotive industry and who recently completed his doctorate on the subject of biomaterials. It is the first Formula 3 racing car designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials, putting the world first by effectively managing the planet’s resources. The car meets all the Formula 3 racing standards except for its biodiesel engine which is configured to run on fuel derived from waste chocolate and vegetable oil. Formula 3 cars currently cannot use biodiesel. The Chocolate Biodiesel Engine The decision was made in favour of a 2-litre BMW diesel engine, calibrated by Scott Racing Ltd., because of its inherent advantages over gasoline in terms of efficiency. “It is also significantly quieter. Noise is an ongoing issue for race ecoF3 car 34 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/09] Vol. 4

tracks,“ says James. The biodiesel used comes from sustainable sources (i.e. not fossil fuel or food crops). It is being produced from recycled cooking oil and recovered ethanol. The UK’s largest supplier of biodiesel processing equipment, Green Fuels, is excited to contribute to the project and prove that an incredibly sustainable biodiesel with a carbon intensity 9% lower than mineral diesel can be used in high performance engines. Green Fuels have also supplied a Fuelpod ® 2 Biodiesel Processor to allow the WorldFirst team to produce their own fuel for use in the WorldFirst car and its transport vehicles. James Meredith: “By producing our own fuel we are able to use the university’s waste cooking oil, further minimising the carbon footprint of the whole project“. And, he adds, they have also produced a biodiesel made from cocoa butter which will be run in the ecoF3 car. The Carrot Steering Wheel Manufactured from a carrot fibre composite called Curran ® (from the Gaelic word for carrot), the steering wheel is also a first of its kind. The Scottish company CelluComp Ltd produces this material, which is a combination of cellulose, found naturally in the cell walls of plants, and high-tech resins. Cellulose, however, in its easily extractable form (such as the fibres used to make paper etc.), is of limited use for composite materials manufacture. It is the special properties of extremely small sub-components of cellulose, called nanofibres, which are particularly desirable. CelluComp has perfected its process by using, for instance, carrots and to a lesser extent, swede. When the extracted cellulose is combined with a special formulation of resins which act to bind the particles and waterproof the mixture once dry, the resulting biocomposite materials have tremendous strength, toughness and lightness. A key advantage of the Curran material is that it is produced in the form of a paste, which means that it can easily be moulded into whatever shape is required. The paste can also be coloured with the desired pigments. Increasing the orientation of the nanofibres in a single direction significantly increases the stiffness and strength in that direction. The fibres can be used at very high volume fractions of up to 90%. The Flax and Soybean Seat Even in the bodywork and seat of the ecoF3 car environmentally friendly materials are being used. Besides materials from renewable resources these also include recycled plastics. The backbone for the Formula 3 car is a chassis made by Lola, one of the oldest and most successful constructors of racing cars in the world. Lola manufactured, for example, parts of the seat. The shell is made of Lineo woven flax fibre prepregs impregnated with epoxy resins. The flax yarns and fabrics are bought Dr Kerry Kirwan, Dr Steve Maggs, James Meredith (from left) from sustainable sources. The SoyFoam of the seat is a product of Lear‘s EnviroTec environmental product line. The seats are made from the same SoyFoam product as what used on the Ford Mustang (see bM 01/2009). This is a TDI catalyzed formula wherein percent replacement of polyol results in a % by pad weight replacement of petroleum-derived polyol with soybean oil-derived polyol. The Isocyanate material is the same as petroleum-derived foam. Lear is aggressively working to increase this percentage replacement level in seating. Another body part is the bib, which is also made from Lineo woven flax/ epoxy composite. The Potato Mirrors New Zealand, represented by the Biopolymer Network, contributes to the wing mirrors and rear wing end plates. The wing mirror will be made out of Potatopak, a water resistant starch packaging material from potatoes. The wing end plates will be a ply-starch hybrid core covered with a linen-cellulose acetate composite. Recycled Materials Besides materials from renewable resources such as the above-mentioned carrots, potatoes or soy beans, the WorldFirst project also uses unconventional recycled materials. The sidepods for example are made from a glass fibre/epoxy resin including 20% recycled PET bottles, made by Cray Valley. Recycled Carbon Ltd, based in the Midlands of the UK, is a company specialising in the recycling of carbon fibre composites. The engine cover and the damper hatch are made from these carbon fibres. The fibres are recovered from cured and un-cured carbon fibre composites. The company presently takes material from the aerospace industry, but also from F1 and high-end automobiles. It has been shown that the recyclate has physical properties of at least 90% of the original fibre. The Green Motor Racing Car “It’s been very exciting working on the project and important for our team to develop a working example of a truly ‘Green’ motor racing car,“ says James Meredith. “The WorldFirst project expels the myth that performance needs to be compromised when developing sustainable motor vehicles for the future” - MT bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/09] Vol. 4 3

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