Ford looks at bamboo for sustainability

Benefits of bamboo are wide-ranging, which is why it’s extensively used

Published: April 18, 2017, 9:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:17 PM

Bamboo forest

Bamboo is one of the most versatile and abundant renewable resources on Earth, and that’s the reason Ford wants to add it to its sustainability plans.

The benefits of bamboo are wide-ranging, and that’s why it’s used for so many things. Thomas Edison even reportedly used it in experiments leading up to the first light bulb

“Bamboo is amazing,” said Janet Yin, a materials engineering supervisor at Ford’s Nanjing Research & Engineering Centre. “It’s strong, flexible, totally renewable, and plentiful in China and many other parts of Asia.”

It’s also edible (and not just by Pandas), with its shoots and sprouts used in many Asian dishes and broths, and available fresh, dried and canned (though they do need to be boiled in order to destroy natural occurring toxins).

But perhaps more importantly, it can be used as a natural clothing fibre because it wicks away moisture and has natural microbial qualities, which allows it to breathe naturally and keep the wearer comfortable and stink-free. The fibres are also extremely strong, which means they could be used in the creation of some plastic replacements for some automobile parts and panels.

Known for its tensile strength (the ability to resist being pulled apart), bamboo is reportedly as strong as some metals and stronger than others, which is what has lead Ford to experiment with it in some parts that are under high pressure and force, and even under high heat (since bamboo can also resist temperatures above water’s boiling point without losing its integrity), finding it performs better than other synthetic and natural fibres.

Ford says some interior surfaces could use bamboo to reinforce plastic panels to create super hard, extra strong materials, but it could theoretically also be used in seat fabrics and other touch surfaces to take advantage of its deodorizing qualities.

And to top it all off, bamboo is abundant, grows to full maturity in two to five years, regenerates easily and can live for a century, making it an extremely attractive renewable resource.

Bamboo would join a Ford sustainability roster that already includes plant products such as agave (the plant used for tequila), kenaf (a tropical cotton), rice hulls, soy, wheat straw and cellulose tree fibres.