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CAU Researchers Join Partnership With American Process Inc. and Futuris Automotive

Posted on Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Donna Brock

Larry Calhoun

ATLANTA (Dec. 3, 2014) – Clark Atlanta University (CAU) researchers  joined in a partnership on Nov. 18 with American Process Inc. and Futuris Automotive to develop ultra-strong, lightweight automotive components using nanomaterials from trees to replace heavy steel structures in cars.  These nanocellulose materials promise to be an economical substitute for expensive carbon fiber composites used in luxury automobiles.  

The goal of the project is to replace heavy steel structures within cars, such as the seat frames, with advanced reinforced polymers that have cost parity with traditional materials, which is good news for consumers and the environment.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10 percent can improve fuel economy by 6 to 8 percent.

CAU chemistry professor Eric Mintz, Ph.D., head of Clark Atlanta’s High Performance Polymers and Composites Center, said, “Clark Atlanta University is a leader in the field of nanocellulose-polymer matrix composites research and development.  We have a long history of developing advanced materials including nanostructured composites supported by NASA, the Department of Defense and the USDA Forests Products Lab, another partner in this venture.”  Academic partners in the venture are Georgia Institute of Technology and Swinburne University of Technology.

According to American Process Inc.’s CEO Theodora Retsina, “This new eco-material can both substitute and enhance the performance of petroleum-based plastics in an environmentally friendly and market competitive way.  Carbon fibers are extremely strong and light but expensive to produce and used only in the highest end applications like aerospace and luxury vehicles.  Nanocellulose has even lower weight than carbon fibers and is just as strong.  With our manufacturing breakthrough, nanocellulose is a fraction of the price of carbon fibers.  Cellulose is the most abundant natural organic material on Earth and it’s renewable and compostable.  We didn’t invent nanocellulose, we made it less expensive, more thermally stable at high temperatures, and gave it functionality to blend with hydrophobic polymers – thereby enabling market applications and opening the road to commercial production.”

According to Futuris’ CEO Mark De Wit, “Futuris continuously seeks out promising emerging technologies in materials science that can help fulfill our mission to provide innovative, high quality, and cost competitive automotive interior solutions.  We sponsor R&D for the most exciting technologies, like nanocellulose, which, we believe, will lead to the development of cost-effective composite materials that can challenge the latest advanced steels and other materials in terms of performance, manufacturability and cost.”

American Process Inc. (API) focuses on pioneering renewable materials, fuels and chemicals from biomass and develops proprietary technologies and strategic alliances in the field to be scaled industrially throughout the world.

Futuris develops and manufactures automotive interior systems for the automotive industry.  Futuris provides seats for Tesla’s battery powered Model S from their facility in Newark, Calif, close to Tesla’s factory in Silicon Valley.  They will also supply seats for the next-generation Tesla Model X SUV.

Category: University Media
Keywords: CAU, American Process, Futuris Automotive, Eric Mintz