Sport & Leisure: exploiting the vibration damping properties of flax 

11 January 2024

  • Tech
  • Linen

In the sporting goods sector, consumers are willing to invest heavily in materials that combine both performance and sustainability. The Alliance for European Flax-Linen and Hemp, has reported an increasing adoption of flax fibres in composites for sporting goods applications this summer.

Padel racket in composite linen

Flax fibre composites for sport represent extremely good choices due partly to their excellent mechanical properties, low density, and minimal environmental footprint, but also in particular due to their outstanding vibration and sound damping properties. These beneficial characteristics have been recognized widely with full or partial flax fibre constructions creating either ‘a softer ride’ or an improved “feel” in products such as racquets, skis, snowboards and kayaks.  

Flax in racket and Water Sports

 

This summer, end users took to the court with flax reinforced tennis, padel and pickleball racquets from brands including Adidas, Babolat, and Revolin. Alternatively they headed out on the water with lower impact European flax boards, canoes, kayak or paddles from manufacturers such as Notox, Predn Surf and Melker.

 

A key example, Babolat, (Lyon, France), recently incorporated a new technology called NF2-Tech into its latest range of Pure Aero racquets. NF2-Tech – natural flax filtration technology – is a flax fibre insert developed with Alliance member, EcoTechnilin (Valliquerville, France) which has been incorporated into the handle and sections of the racquet heads to dampen vibrations and deliver optimised acoustics with a much softer sound. This results in an enhanced feeling as a player strikes the ball. 

Carlos Alcaraz claimed the 2023 Wimbledon Men’s Final using his signature Babolat Pure Aero 98. Founded in 1875, Babolat has also supplied racquets to many other all-time great tennis champions including René Lacoste, Arthur Ashe, Björn Borg and Rafa Nadal. 

Similarly, the adidas Metalbone Greenpadel padel racquet incorporates Bcomp ampliTex flax fibres, as an alternative to typically used carbon and glass fibres, to provide a new level of performance thanks again to the outstanding vibration damping they provide. 

Flax in Winter Sports 

 

Flax fibres are also making inroads into winter sports. Zag Skis, based in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, has also collaborated with Bcomp and uses ampliTex flax fibre composite reinforcements across its Slap collection. The company says the flax fibres ensure a smoother ride and provide 250% higher vibration damping than carbon fibres for even the most demanding freeride skiers. Also applying flax to its latest generation equipment, Rome Snowboards, headquartered in Waterbury, Vermont, is working with EcoTechnilin to integrate flax textile reinforcements into the impact plates and side walls of its boards. The low-density fibres have been shown to improve durability, rigidity and stability without impacting the crucial ‘feel’ of the board. 

The Alliance for European Flax-Linen and Hemp has produced a detailed report on the vibration-damping properties of flax fibre-reinforced composites and the advantages it provides across a range of end-use sectors.  The report titled "Vibration Damping in Flax & Hemp Fibre Composites" was launched at JEC World 2023 and has been written by the experts of the Alliance’s European Scientific Council.  

 

Based on the literature review of Taiqu Liu, Pauline Butaud, Vincent Placet and Morvan Ouisse from the FEMTO-ST Institute, University of Bourgogne Franche-Comté, France, the report compares the damping properties of flax and hemp fibre composites alongside a broad range of more traditional materials. In addition, the report discusses various influential factors on the damping performance including the effect of the resin matrix selected, the porosity content and moisture absorption. 

 

The new technical report: Vibration Damping in Flax & Hemp Fibre Composites, is an analysis that defines the excellent choice of flax and hemp fibres for composites. Not least because of their low density and light weight.

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