Important note: sign-up for Fashion & Textile Technologies (FTT), Chemistry (C), Mechanical Engineering (WTB) and ENTREPRENEURSHIP & RETAIL MANAGEMENT (ORM) students use Bisoncode: L.26746
Important note: sign-up for Forensic Research (FO) students use Bisoncode: L.26747

* The client of this project will attend the Preview on Thursday 28th of November from 13:30 to 16:00 at Saxion Enschede (Ariënsplein 1).

Biobased materials are of major interest for industrial activities and production processes. One of these materials are Flax Fibres which can be used, e.g., as a substitute for glass fibre in non-critical car parts such as dashboard and door panels. A main issue is to unlock the fibres from the flax plant itself. This process, called “retting”, is normally done by putting the harvested stems on the field and let them degrade in time.
Then the stems are “combed” to extract the fibres from the remaining stems. This process has some disadvantages, for instance the fibres break into short pieces which is undesirable for most industrial production processes. Another drawback is that the retting conditions are uncontrollable. The Chair Sustainable Energy Systems has previously conducted research to create a retting process in which temperature and pH are controlled. This process is done inside a bubble column in which the flax stems are lowered and compressed air is used to gradually  degrade the stems by means of cavitation. Although results were very promising as rather long fibres were extracted from the stems, there are some issues left to address:

  • Addition of enzymes. Studies done by the Chair Smart Functional Materials have shown that adding certain kinds of enzymes fully unlocked the fibres and were easy to remove from the stems. Unfortunately the business case was not viable because too much costly enzymes were needed. An opportunity lies in combining the bubble column reactor using much less enzymes with the cavitation principle. This is from chemical engineering perspective an interesting case to find the profitable trade-off point between adding enzymes, compressed air and heating costs.
  • The material strength and usability of the fibres. Tests need to be done for mechanical properties such as tensile strength, Youngs modulus and elasticity.
  • Constructing a composite material which is appealing to use for instance in car parts.
  • Developing an overall business case from the raw material to the desired end product.
  • Analysis of residual waste streams and possibilities to re-use these streams. For instance, production of biogas out of the dirty water stream or possible extraction and recycling of enzymes.

Are you interested to deliver a working reactor system that produces an appealing biobased composite product and an interesting business case suitable for instance for non-critical car parts? Be Flaxible!

Required study programs: 

Fashion & Textile Technologies: Testing of the produced flax fibres and considering possible novel applications of these fibres, like sun screens or clothing.

Chemistry (C): Simulations and tests to find the trade-off point between adding enzymes and compressed air costs. Basic engineering for a total process including reuse of waste streams.

Mechanical Engineering (WTB): Mechanical tests on the flax composite product. Detail engineering of the total process including CAD drawings and material lists for a pilot plant.

Entrepreneurship & Retail Management (ORM): A detailed business case which can be sold to investors for a pilot plant for flax retting.

Forensic Research (FO): Studies on types of enzymes and the interaction on the flax stems. Analysis of the quality (composition) of the waste streams.

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Questions about this project?

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this project. You can call us at 088 - 019 53 11 or use the form below. We wil get back to you within two business days.