DOST unit touts abaca fiber as alternative to metal

One of the research agencies of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is offering “green engineering technologies” which the public can tap for businesses and other purposes.

“Tryk ni Juan” driver’s roof and sidecar are made of abaca fibers combined with resin to form a composite. 15 prototypes were fabricated and installed on participating tricycle units and deployed for actual test/use early last year

In a forum, the DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) said one of the technologies it is offering at a discounted price is the abaca fiber-reinforced composite for industrial applications.

Focusing on the green attributes of abaca fiber, ITDI developed the technology and used this to form the roof and sidecar of the common motorized tricycle.

The technology has already been used to fabricate the “Tryk ni Juan” project which was rolled out early last year.

Dr. Marissa Paglicawan, project leader and section head of advanced materials section of the material science division of ITDI, explained that the project capitalizes on the abundance of local fibers like abaca in addressing the need for reinforcing materials that are both cheap and environment-friendly.

Abaca fiber, also known as Manila hemp, is endemic in the Philippines. Locally abundant, the country leads in abaca production worldwide with a yield of more than 50,000 tons per annum.

It is commonly used in industrial cordage, handicrafts, fashion products such as hats and accessories, home and house ware, and other decorative products.

According to experts from ITDI, abaca is considered as one of the strongest natural fibers and is far more resistant even to salt water decomposition than most of the vegetable fibers.

Because its fibers are stronger and stiffer, fiber reinforcement has been shown to be very effective. The developed composites are said to be lightweight, cheap, corrosion-resistant, and provide good insulation, making it a good substitute material for metals like stainless steel and galvanized iron.

In addition, the properties of the composite can also be tailor-made depending on the specific purpose, making it more desirable to use in automobile parts manufacturing and in other allied industries.

To date, abaca fiber-reinforced composites are being eyed for wider applications in other modes of local transportation like buses, jeepneys, and pump boats.

The DOST said the new material adds value to abaca while providing opportunities to explore and maximize use of other locally abundant natural fibers for composite fabrication that may yet revitalize the local natural fiber industry.

ITDI, which undertakes industrial, technical and knowledge translations in technology transfer, offers a wide range of industrial innovations ready for commercialization.

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