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Susan Care

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Snowboarders, Want to Go Nuts on the Slopes?

Researchers at Sheffield University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre have produced prototype snowboards made from flax fibres & cashew nut husks

Don't worry, we're not encouraging reckless behaviour, but snowboarders may have a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional boards in the future.

Researchers at the Sheffield University Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre have produced a prototype snowboard made from flax, cashew nut husks and recycled plastic.

Glass and carbon fibre composites have been increasingly used in the aerospace and automotive sectors for their combination of strength and light weight. However, they are energy-intensive to make, are not easy to recycle and don't biodegrade at the end of their working lives.

Replacing glass fibre and carbon fibre embedded in a petrochemical derived epoxy resin with raw materials from sustainable resources could have considerable environmental benefits.

The AMRC Composite Centre team work on the Euro E-Light project to investigate new lightweight materials for electric vehicles. As part of this the team trialled the use of fibres from bamboo and flax and an epoxy resin derived from cashew nut husks. The AMRC's Mantra lorry – a mobile showcase for advanced engineering now sports two fairing panels made from the new bio-composites.

Some of the researchers spotted a potential for the new material in an area of personal interest for them and the SUSC (Snowboard Using Sustainable Composites) project was born.

"Snowboards need to be stiff, strong and light, so are typically made from glass fibre or carbon fibre composite with a wooden core,” says development engineer Craig Atkins. "We decided to take a look at replacing these with more sustainable materials. Flax is a relatively cheap bio-material, with good mechanical properties, and a very good candidate for use in snowboards.”

Two boards were made, one is on display at the centre, the other is undergoing extended er… testing in the Canadian mountains by team member Alistair Murray on sabbatical.

If you're heading for the slopes this season, don't forget to include Winter Sports cover on your Travel Insurance. Compare ski hire prices across Europe with SkiHireEurope.com and get savings of over 50% on resort prices. We hope we'll be offering bio-composites soon.