A high-tech new material made from the humble carrot is about to revolutionise product performance and begin to replace materials such as glass fibre and carbon fibre in everything from fishing rods to car parts.
Invented by two Burntisland scientists, Dr David Hepworth and Dr Eric Whale, the new material, called CurranTM, will herald a new age of environmentally friendly products that bring together the best qualities of natural and artificial materials to give a unique combination of strength, stiffness, weight and toughness, without the negative manufacturing side effects of glass fibre and carbon fibre products.
Through a special process, nano fibres found in carrots, that have been created by the energy of mother nature, are extracted and combined over a period of about 5 days, with high-tech resins enabling tough, durable components to be moulded to whatever shape, degree of stiffness, strength or lightness is required. CurranTM outperforms both GFRP and CFRP in every way.
With colourful backgrounds that have taken them from university research to being involved in advanced aerospace technologies and helping build ancient weapons of war for ITN Factual, CurranTM inventors Dr David Hepworth and Dr Eric Whale are poised to revolutionise manufacturing.
Through their company CelluComp Ltd, the duo have entered the sporting goods market with the launch in March of Just Cast, a unique, high performance range of fly fishing rods offering lengths of 7.5 â€“ 10 feet.
The new “Just Cast” rods are around 50 per cent carrot – each made with around 2kg of the vegetables, with the rest being carbon fibre, 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, such as swedes, turnips and parsnips, that have a high cellulose content.
Dr David Hepworth says, “We are fortunate in Burntisland to be able to source waste carrots locally â€“ approximately 30% of carrots grown are unsuitable for the market, according to EU laws, because of their shape or size. This means that we can buy them very cheaply as they would otherwise go for animal feed, but the main thing is that we are not importing a product that has been mined, highly processed and transported a long way.
“As well as replacing the use of oil in manufacture, products made from CurranTM are themselves biodegradeable. And when you burn CurranTM, the carbon it created was cancelled out by the carbon absorbed by the carrots when they were growing.
As well as retailing direct to consumers, CelluComp plans to enter into a number of strategic partnerships and talks are on-going with some of the biggest brands in the fishing equipment market.
David says, â€œCurranTM 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. The potential of CurranTM is enormous and if we can replace just a small percentage of carbon fibre in products the effects on the environment could be significant and wide ranging. The irony is that the main ingredient for achieving this major step forward has been with us all along.â€
He added, â€œWhen assessing what market offered us the best entry opportunity, we opted for the sporting goods market as it is more receptive to new materials. There is a Â£7 billion market worldwide for fishing rods and Europe, which will be our initial target, is one of the biggest individual markets. Our Just Cast range offers unique power and control in all environments and will help fisherman to safeguard the environment they take so much pleasure from.â€
CelluComp now aims to achieve rapid growth and David and Eric are already at work on their next product that will take them into the Snowboard market.
Campbell Murray, Head of the Scottish Enterprise High Growth Start-Up Unit, said: â€œCelluComp has a unique product and it is arriving at a time when the trend across all businesses is towards having a greater focus on the environment and corporate social responsibility.”