Strong, light, and able to enhance the safety of drivers, carbon fiber has been a game-changer in Formula One racing. As companies focus more on the environment, designers are searching for new alternative materials that can provide these benefits in a more sustainable and less costly manner. Bcomp and McLaren have developed a seat made with flax fiber that provides the necessary stiffness and strength while emitting a 75% lower CO2 footprint compared to the same part designed from carbon fiber.
The structure of flax fibers offers low density and high stiffness while being lightweight, key aspects to improved vibration damping, strength, torsion, and compression, all critical to speed and safety in Formula One race cars.
The new seat design is based on carbon fiber seats used in the past. Bcomp CEO and co-founder Christian Fischer explained, “The original carbon fiber seat design was reverse-engineered by Bcomp, and then we optimized and manufactured the new design.”
The seats are built from Bcomp’s powerRibs™ technology and ampliTex™ woven flax fiber reinforcements. A three-dimensional powerRibs™ grid structure on one side of the seat is used to reinforce the ampliTex™ flax fabric that is bonded to it. When powerRibs™ work together with ampliTex™, Bcomp reports that the result matches the performance of carbon fiber.
The flax fibers are biodegradable and at the end of the seat’s life, it can be recycled or ground into a new base material and reused.
“This seat is the first step in the successful application of natural fiber composites in F1,” McLaren F1 team principal Andreas Seidl said. “By working with Bcomp we can identify other components that we can replace with a sustainable alternative that has equivalent weight and performance. There is no silver bullet in the race to be carbon neutral. Instead, we must continually evaluate every element of our cars and our operations to identify the ways we can improve performance, drive efficiency, and reduce environmental impact.”