Phillip Thomas News Editor
July 22, 2016

While racers have joked for decades that plywood is "nature's composite," Ford and Jose Cuervo are working to bring a new source of composite materials from Mother Nature: Agave plate fibers. Agave plants are the basis of tequila, a spirit that's only produced around the town of Tequila, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. It takes about seven years to mature a plant for harvest, when its spiny leaves are removed, and itspia (or base) is then sent to the tequila maker to be processed into alcoholic goodness.

During the process, the pia is steamed, shredded, and stripped of its sugars and liquids, which then become the base for fermentation. The shreddedpia fibers are reused locally for local art and crafts, and by Jose Cuervo as compost for their plantations. Ford wants to use those thefibrousmaterialin various plastics in their products, bolstering their growing usage of sustainable material usage.

"At Ford, we aim to reduce our impact on the environment," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department. "As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel economy."

Ford wants to use the leftover fibers to reinforce plastic parts, producing what's called fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP). FRP has been around for decades in automotive use, from dent-resistant fenders, to intake manifolds, to your cup holder

Typically, FRP is made from fiber-glass,but Ford, like all automakers in this era of sustainability, are seeking to downsize their carbon footprint. As common as silica is, it's a finite resource on this green earth, and thus finding alternative sources of fiber for FRP is an important quest for automakers like Ford.Additionally, with Jose Cuervo processing 200-300tons of Agave, this gives the plant wastea second life as a high-tech composite material.

"Jose Cuervo is proud to be working with Ford to further develop our agave sustainability plan," said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera. "As the world's No. 1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials."

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