First bridge made completely out of bio-composite material

This 14-meter long ‘bio-bridge’ is made from a hemp and flax-fiber base.

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A fully bio-composite footbridge has been installed on the Eindhoven University of Technology campus in The Netherlands. This 14-meter long ‘bio-bridge’ is made from a hemp and flax-fiber base and is the result of collaboration between a large number of knowledge institutions and companies.

Students from TU/e, TU Delft and the Eindhoven region’s vocational colleges, among others, worked on building the bridge. Fibers of hemp and flax are the basic material of the bridge. In order to develop the bio-composite, the fibers were stuck to a biological PLA foam (polylactic acid) core and then a bio-resin was sucked into the fiber layers using a vacuum, which produced a very strong support beam when hardened.

The plan is for this bridge to remain up for a year and about 28 sensors in the bridge will measure the bending that occurs. “There have been previous construction projects with bio-materials, but never before were they bearing structures made entirely of bio-materials,” says TU/e researcher and project leader Rijk Blok. “Through this experiment we hope to learn a lot about the behavior of the bio-composite over the longer term.”

The initiators hope that this bridge will show the potential of bio-composite as a sustainable alternative for existing construction materials. “Using bio-composite in constructions reduces our dependence on finite fossil resources and brings us a step closer to the circular economy in which products and resources are reused,” Blok says. “In time, I expect that we will see more of these materials in our buildings." 

The bridge is the result of the 4TU Lighthouse research project ‘B3: Fully Bio-Based Composite Pedestrian Bridge’. The partners were TU/e (chair Innovative Structural Design), TU Delft, composite company NPSP and the Center of Expertise Biobased Economy, a collaboration between Avans Hogeschool and HZ University of Applied Sciences. The project was co-funded by Stichting Innovatie Alliantie (SIA).