Sustainable composite kayak

Researchers from the UK’s National Composites Centre (NCC) have made a wild water kayak made from sustainable composite materials.

The team includes Jacob Holmes, who was ranked number 2 in the UK for the sport in 2021.

“The idea for the project came about after the rules for wild water racing kayak dimensions changed this year,” said Holmes. “There is now no minimum width, and whilst this development has been slow over decades, it is potentially set for rapid change. There are currently no white-water racing kayaks made in the UK and there is no end-of-life solution for them either.”

According to the NCC, the kayak was made with Recyclamine material, a hardener compatible with epoxy resins. During the recycling process, the hardener enables cured epoxy cross-links to be cleaved, when the component is placed in acid at high temperatures. The thermoset epoxy resin dissolves, making fiber reclamation easier without the need to cut the fiber. For this project the part was manufactured by infusion and Recyclamine epoxy system behaved in a similar way to a traditional epoxy, the research team said.

The final wild water kayak produced is of the same weight as current kayaks – 10.5kg – with a minimum width reduced from 60cm to 53cm following the recent rule change.

After completing the kayak, Holmes plans to test it in wild water conditions to see if the new reduced width affects racing performance. If successful, he would then take the new kayak into racing conditions later in the year. The project team also plan to run recycling trials with the material and generate data on the recovered fiber and matrix.

“Being able to see a project through from an idea to a completed product was really rewarding,” said Emma Burns, who jointly led the project with Holmes. “Leading the project from the technical side, I gained insight and understanding into so many areas – from tooling to material selection, through to manufacture.”