Meredith part of international effort to create nanocellulose-based car parts

Carson Meredith, a professor and associate chair for graduate studies in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, is participating in an initiative to develop ultra-strong, lightweight automotive structural components reinforced with nanocellulose.

Meredith and Meisha Shofner, associate professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), are representing Georgia Tech in a multi-entity partnership to use nanocellulose-polymer composites to be an economical and eco-friendly substitute for carbon-fiber composites used in luxury automobiles. For example, nanocellulose — a rapidly emerging, high-performance nanomaterial extracted from trees — could be used to replace heavy steel structures, such as the seat frames, in the cars. The result would be a lighter vehicle, which would lead to improved fuel economy.

“The contribution that my group is making is transferring our recent discoveries of cellulose surface modification chemistry to this application space,” Meredith said. “Our work in this area has benefitted greatly from previous funding from the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which promoted partnerships with Professor Shofner in MSE and with the U.S. Forest Service.”

Also involved in the project are researchers at Clark Atlanta University, Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne, Australia) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Products Laboratory (headquartered in Madison, Wis.) as well as Atlanta-based American Process Inc. and Melbourne, Australia-based Futuris Automotive.

The U.S. Department of Energy has established a target of reducing vehicle weight by 50 percent by 2050. An obstacle has been the lack of sufficient quantities of lightweight materials at an affordable cost.

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