Imagine carrot waste fibers used in manufacturing helmets. A new multi-perspective application selection (MPAS) method developed at Empa has identifed the bio-degradable wster for industrial use from the ecological aspect whereby nanofibers made of carrot waste was found to useful in the production of motorcycle helmets or side walls for motorhomes in the future.
In order to clarify a new material’s market potential, Empa researchers Fabiano Piccinno, Roland Hischier and Claudia Som unveiled three steps — firstly, the field of possible applications is defined, secondly, the technical feasibility and market potential and thirdly, the ecological aspect.
The MPAS approach enables individual scenarios for a future production to be calculated with an extremely high degree of accuracy. In the case of the carrot waste nanofibers, for instance, it is crucial whether five tons of fresh carrots or only 209 kilograms of carrot waste (fiber waste from the juicing process) are used as the base material for their production.
The issue of whether the solvent is ultimately recycled or burned affects the production costs. And the energy balance depends on how the enzymes that loosen the fibers from the carrots are deactivated. In the lab, this takes place via heat; for production on an industrial level, the use of bleaching agents would be more cost-effective.
They found that carrot fibre as per the MPAS analysis, could be used in six possible customer segments for the Scottish manufacturer Cellucomp that are worth taking a closer look at:
Protective equipment and devices for recreational sport, special vehicles, furniture, luxury consumer goods and industrial manufacturing.
The researchers listed the following examples: Motorcycle helmets and surfboards, side walls for motorhomes, dining tables, high-end loudspeaker boxes and product protection mats for marble-working businesses.
Similarly detailed analyses can also be conducted for other renewable materials – before a lot of money is actually invested in production plants, said researchers.