On November 17, 2022, Yamaha Marine announced that it will begin using certain parts in some 2024 personal watercraft and sport boat engines that are made from a new material. It’s a plant-derived, cellulose nanofiber-reinforced resin product, which comes from a collaboration between Yamaha Motor and Nippon Paper Industries Corporation.
We’re not BoatApart, so why are we telling you about this? Quite simply, because, in Yamaha’s own words, “Yamaha Motor is examining the utilization of CNF reinforced resin not only in marine products but also in motorcycles and a wide range of other products in the future.”
That’s right; today it’s boats, but tomorrow, it could be bikes. It’s not exactly a surprise, given the high levels of various types of stresses that this material will be subjected to in marine applications. Both engine and other applications will no doubt be put through their paces in such a way that Yamaha will be able to predict their performance in motorcycles quite well down the road.
Gallery: Yamaha and Nippon Paper Cellulose Nanofiber Project
Let’s back up for a second, though. What exactly is cellulose nanofiber? According to Nippon Paper Group, it “is made from wood-derived fiber (pulp) that has been micro-refined to the nano level of several hundredths of a micron and smaller, cellulose nanofiber is the world’s most advanced biomass material.”
The company’s definition goes on to state that “because CNF is derived from plant fibers, the environmental impact from production and disposal is low. Due to its light-weight characteristics, the modulus of elasticity has the same level of strength as that of aramid fiber, which is known as a high-strength fiber, and has thermal expansion on par with glass. CNF also has excellent gas barrier properties against oxygen.”
As you might expect, although we’re only learning about this project in November, 2022, Nippon Paper Group has been working on CNF development for close to a decade. As a paper company in the 21st century, it started investigating the possibilities of CNF starting in April, 2013.
Since that time, NPG has explored and identified all the characteristics of CNF listed so far, as well as identified several areas where CNF can be useful. From gas barrier films to help keep food fresh, to filters of various types, to nanocomposites for use in the automotive and marine industries—there are a whole host of areas where Nippon Paper Group envisions CNF having potential use.
If you’re thinking that this technology sounds somewhat familiar, you may be thinking of Swedish electric motorcycle company CAKE. Back in March, 2022, the company announced a teamup with fellow Swedish company PaperShell. Together, the companies are exploring development of a paper-based, natural, fiber composite material that could eventually replace the plastic body panels currently in use on the OEM’s bikes.
While Yamaha may not be the first to announce such a project, it is so far the largest moto company to do so. As we’ve said before and will no doubt say again, materials science is SO COOL, everyone! Just take a look at a recent project that Japan's Ministry of the Environment undertook to examine feasibility of a nano cellulose vehicle, or NCV, which we'll include a link to in our Sources.