Humble vegetable that could revolutionise everything from fishing-rods to battleships
FROM dangling to angling. The humble carrot is set to be used in ways never imagined before, thanks to a discovery by two Scottish scientists who have found a way to convert the vegetable into an advanced material to make products from fishing rods to warships.
The development is the brain-child of Dr David Hepworth and Dr Eric Whale, who have created the material, named Curran, at their company CelluComp in Burntisland, Fife. Their first product - a rod for fly fishing - goes on sale next month.
But they are not stopping there. The pair now plan to move on to make snowboards and car parts and say the material could also be used to make engineering components and even battleships.
The material is also more environmentally friendly than current methods using glass and carbon fibres.
Dr Hepworth said they believed Curran would be one of the major material innovations since the introduction of carbon fibre over 30 years ago.
"It is incredibly versatile and we believe that we are launching at a time when companies are looking for that combination of quality and performance, but achieved in a way that is environmentally friendly," he said.
At the moment, the company can make materials which are around 80 per cent carrot, with carbon fibre making up the remainder.
The new "Just Cast" rods are around 50 per cent carrot - each made with around 2kg of the vegetables.
But it is hoped that as the technique is developed, they will eventually be able to make products which are made from 100 per cent biological matter - carrots and other plants.
Dr Hepworth said they were already looking at using other vegetables such as turnips, swede and parsnips.
Dr Hepworth said: "We can buy in the carrots very cheaply - around 10p a kilo - so most of the cost in making the material is from the process we use.
"The rod will cost around the same as a normal rod at first, but we hope that once we scale up production the price will drop."
The inventor said the material was kinder to the environment because carrots are a renewable resource - unlike the oil used to make carbon fibres.
And he said that when the material was burnt, the carbon it created was cancelled out by the carbon absorbed by the carrots when they were growing.
"The potential is enormous and if we can replace just a small percentage of carbon fibres in products the effects on the environment could be significant and wide-ranging.
"The irony is that the main ingredient has been with us all along," Dr Hepworth said.
HOW THE CARROT IS TRANSFORMED
CURRAN - a carrot-based material - is manufactured using a top-secret method that has been five years in the making.
The process basically involves taking carrots and breaking them down into small particles using a special mechanical process.
The strong nano-fibres from this carrot "soup" are then extracted so that they can be processed in a variety of ways.
Most of the water is removed and hi-tech resins are added to the mix.
This mixture can then be moulded and heated to make a strong material.
The inventors said they used carrots because they were common and had qualities that meant strong and tough materials could be created.
They were also cheap to buy in large numbers.
The same technique could now be applied to other vegetables, such as turnips, swedes and parsnips.
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