Climate Countdown on the road to COP26 is a mini campaign supported by KTN and Innovate UK celebrating 10 of the 40 KTN Innovate UK 2021 Women in Innovation winners who are working on climate solutions. They include Dr Emma FieldhouseDr Ruby PillaiBeth DawsonJacqueline MorrisonGeorgia BarrieJuliana MeyerNatasha BouldingJoan D’Arcy PhDEmma Shaw and Sophie Walker.

At Cecence are playing our part in the programme through the Women in Innovation Award through the development of a sustainable aero interiors collection and looking at which structural elements of a passenger airline can be replaced with more sustainable materials without adding weight or losing performance.

Composite materials provide weight savings and durability without compromising on strength. They often rely on epoxy and phenolic resin systems and glass and carbon fibres which use a huge amount of energy in their production. They are built to last for a long time and what to do with them at end of life is only now starting to be considered in earnest. The images of wind blades being ploughed into fields to dispose of them once they had fatigued late last year alerted many to the need to apply a more circular approach to the manufacture of composite products.

Meanwhile, great strides are being made in hydrogen and electric flight but we are a while off actually stepping on board an actual craft commercially, and while attention is being focused on the fuel source, little thought is being given to the materials used on board. By swooping out virgin carbon and glass for recycled carbon, natural fibres and bio-based resin systems we can integrate low embodied carbon products on board the aircraft and play an immediate part in greening the cabin. Natural fibres such as hemp in particular sequester CO2 in their growth and help regenerate the soil. By harnessing these fibres in a bio-resin we can produce net zero products that make a positive contribution from the very beginning of the product’s life.

The development of natural fibre composites can play a part in many of the goals set out by the United Nations’ SDGs. People are more aware that healthy materials equal healthy people and what we build our homes with, what we wear, and what products we buy have an impact on our well being. Industry Innovation and infrastructure are undergoing seismic changes with business models being upended driven by a new purpose driven generation. Sustainable composite materials further align with the first two of the four COP goals of net zero and a more resilient agriculture.