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British Student Invents Flax Fiber Helmet



A British college student has invented a new flax-based bicycle helmet by using a bio-resin created from flax fiber. The goal was to make a more ecologically sustainable bicycle helmet than those currently manufactured out of chemical-based plastics. 

James Dart, a recent honors graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 3D design from Brighton University, has developed what he called the “Duo Lin” cycle helmet, made from a bio-resin foam core interior and knitted flax woven outer resin shell.

An avid cyclist himself, Dart created the helmet for a university project in which he focused on working with new, more sustainable materials, he told Design News in an interview.

“It was a craft-based course to make a product that didn’t have to be finished but more a vehicle of discussion,” Dart said, “In my case new materials and sustainability.”

Dart had support from the Building Research & Innovation Deals for the Green Economy (BRIDGE) project, which links partners from southern England and northern France to foster the use and development of eco-materials to support and develop green entrepreneurship.

The core material Dart chose for the helmet — a resin made from linseed oil — is a new material from a company called Dragon Kraft, which donated the material to Dart. Linseeds are the seed from flax plants.

Dart used the bio-resin — a two-part system comprised of an oily yellow liquid resin and a treacle-like hardener — to form the outer shell of the helmet as a composite. He molded the material with a woven flax reinforcement and set it under UV light. He also created a foam from the bio-resin by adding water to it and also letting it set under heat from a UV light to form the interior cushioning of the helmet.

Dart said the helmet does not meet current safety standards because he did not comprehensively test the helmet due to lack of means given his limited budget and resources. However, he did put it through a “drop test,” in which he put a five-kilo weight in the helmet and dropped it from a comparative height to being on a bicycle to see how it might withstand the pressure.

“It went well,” Dart said of the test. “The resin is flexible — something I did not expect — and the foam inner core is dense. The weight of the helmet, which is not comparable to polystyrene, absorbs impact and dissipates it.”

The weight of the helmet is one design feature that would have to be tweaked for commercial use, Dart added, since the bio-resin helmet is much heavier than plastic helmets.

Dart said he has been wearing the helmet for personal use when cycling and said it’s quite comfortable, even if not as light as typical bicycle helmets. The DragonKraft material also is waterproof.

Having graduated from university in June, Dart is now continuing his education in Switzerland at the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL), a university of art and design based in Switzerland. He is also talking with a potential commercial partner called Cato, which makes helmets for a brand called Strutter, for the potential next step for the Duo Lin helmet — commercial manufacturing. Dart met representatives from Cato in Paris at an international composites fair earlier this year.

One current stumbling block to mass production of the helmets is accessibility and the cost of the bio-resin material from Dragonkraft, which is about 60£ (US$93.00) per kilo. Polystyrene, in comparison, is a mere fraction of that, he said.

“Because these are new materials, the price is high and DragonKraft will sell it, but only to the right people,” Dart told us. “The material is not off-the-shelf at the moment, so I need to find someone who could manufacture it .”

Even without a clear path to commercialization for his product, Dart said that raising the awareness of the possibility of bio-resin made from flax plants is a step forward for more ecologically friendly material use.

 


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