Innovation: Research In New Biomass-Based Composites From Renewable Resources With Improved Properties For Vehicle Parts Moulding

Last update: 29.08.2013
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Keywords: 
nanotechnology and nanosciences, biotechnology, processing, new materials, automotive industry
Nowadays, it is clearly observed from the current panorama of environmental preservation that there is a continuous definition and approval of increasingly restrictive regulations and a rise in the market demand for products with a lower ecological footprint.

Specifically, the automobile sector has been identified as one of the most involved in the adoption of protectionist measures towards the environment preservation, translating some of their major concerns in the increase of green materials demand.

Among biodegradable materials, the ones that are now attracting more commercial interest are some biodegradable polyesters, which can be processed using conventional processing equipment and are being used in the food packaging and biomedical field. The most widely researched thermoplastic sustainable biopolymers are starch-based resins, PLA and PHB.

Most of their development is focused on film processing, so these materials could only be validated for less demanding applications like packaging and textile industry. Consequently, more research is needed in fields like injection moulding and thermoforming, the most widely used in the automobile industry, in order to improve characteristics like thermal and hydrolysis resistance, stress at break and volatile emission.

In this sense, ECOplast aims to provide a feasible response to those environmental concerns by fulfilling demands from the principal OEMs, and protectionist policies from legislative authorities, currently detected by the automobile sector. Specifically, this project aims to develop novel thermoplastic biomass-based composites through the synthesis of novel protein-based polymers (PBPs) with smart thermoresponsive properties and obtained from residual carbon resources.

Conception and modulation of new molecular architectures in polylactic acid (PLA) and improvement of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) properties, adapting their structure and nature to automotive specifications will be needed. These two last base biopolymers are commercially available and have technical properties closer to the conventional petrochemical polymers, already validated for their use in a vehicle. Moreover, they are large-scale manufactured, so the exploitation and economic impact of project results are assured.

PROJECT GOALS:

The main objective of the project is the development of new biomass-based composites validated for the automotive industry by adapting base biopolymers and generating new ones, using innovative treatments for fibre reinforcements. Additivation of the base polymer with novel fillers and nanofillers will also be considered.

The main research line will be focused on the adaptation of available biopolymers (PLA, PHB) and the creation of a new protein-based biopolymer (SELP) for its use as the base matrix, to be able to meet automotive standard requirements. In order to accomplish this target, it is indispensable to improve the thermal characteristics of these polymers, the hydrolysis resistance, the dimensional stability and the volatile emission.

Therefore, this project will develop several new reinforcements and novel additives like nanofillers, mineral fillers and treated natural fibres (nanocellulose), to be compounded with these base polymers in order to create new biocomposites. Accordingly, the following will be used:

a. Nanofillers for increasing the thermal resistance.
b. Natural fibres and nanocellulose for enhancing the dimensional stability and the mechanical resistance.
c. Mineral fillers for reducing the moisture absorbency.

Another important goal in this project is the adaptation of conventional processing techniques (polymers compounding, injection moulding and thermoforming), widely used in the automotive industry, and the design of new ones tailored to these biocomposites. The challenge here will be to overcome the problem of degradation due to extreme thermal conditions and moisture absorbency.
A plastic door panel is chosen for the case study and developmental starting point. The project partners develop and produce different polymer matrices consisting of nucleated polylactic acid (n-PLA), polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and protein-based co-polymers. These materials are optimised and the production technologies are up-scaled.

The partners develop natural nanofillers that produce fibrous crystal forms to increase thermal resistance. Currently, scientists are investigating nanoclays. Wood-based nanocellulose reinforcements and natural fibres are employed to enhance dimensional stability and mechanical resistance. Prepared fibres from pine and eucalyptus are compounded with n-PLA and PHB and mechanically tested.

Natural fibres from ramie, hemp, flax and sisal have been coated, compounded and tested. Finally, the partners have collected data on mineral fillers to be used to reduce moisture uptake and have tested several of these.
The consortium has successfully compounded several materials in preparation for developing the cast-sheet extrusion process. Injection moulding of test samples has begun with promising preliminary results. Validation tests of the polymers and of injected samples are also underway.

ECOPLAST plans to deliver at least one biocomposite suitable for vehicle validation. Knowledge produced could also benefit other industrial sectors currently using plastics and plastic composites, thus helping to increase sustainability significantly.
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This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Research In New Biomass-Based Composites From Renewable Resources With Improved Properties For Vehicle Parts Moulding

Acronym: 
ECOPLAST

Runtime: 
01.06.2010 to 31.05.2014

Status: 
completed project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

Please click on an entry to view all contact details.

FUNDACION PARA LA PROMOCION DE LA INNOVACION, INVESTIGACION Y DESARROLLO TECNOLOGICO EN LA INDUSTRIA DE AUTOMOCION DE GALICIA

(Spain)

Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: Ms. PILAR Vidal

Website: http://www.ctag.com

Phone: +34-986900300

Contact

ASOCIACION DE INVESTIGACION DE MATERIALES PLASTICOS Y CONEXAS - AIMPLAS

(Spain)

Contact person: Dr. POLO RAMIREZ Valentin

Website: http://www.aimplas.es

Phone: +34-96 136 60 40

Contact

BIOMER

(Germany)

Contact person: Dr. HAENGGI Urs

Website: http://www.biomer.de

Phone: +49-8912765136

Contact

FKUR KUNSTSTOFF GMBH

(Germany)

Contact person: PELTZER Daniel

Phone: +49-2154925129

Contact

FRAUNHOFER-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER ANGEWANDTEN FORSCHUNG E.V

(Germany)

Contact person: Dr. KABASCI Stephan

Website: http://www.fraunhofer.de

Contact

GRUPO ANTOLIN-INGENIERIA SA

(Spain)

Contact person: Mr. SOTO Pablo

Website: http://www.grupoantolin.com

Contact

MEGATECH INDUSTRIES AMURRIO SL

(Spain)

Contact person: Mr. DE LA SERNA Javier

Website: http://www.mgtindustries.com

Phone: +34-945893129

Contact

NANOBIOMATTERS SL

(Spain)

Contact person: Mr. LAGARON Jose María

Website: http://www.nanobiomatters.com

Phone: +34-961318628

Contact

PALLMANN MASCHINENFABRIK GMBH & CO

(Germany)

Contact person: Mr. GÓMEZ Carlos

Website: http://www.pallmann.eu

Contact

PIEP ASSOCIACAO POLO DE INOVACAO EMENGENHARIA DE POLIMEROS

(Portugal)

Contact person: Dr. MAGALHÃES Rui

Website: http://www.piep.pt

Phone: +351-253510050

Contact

PURAC BIOCHEM BV

(Netherlands)

Contact person: Mr. HAAN Robert

Website: http://www.puracbiomaterials.com

Phone: +31-183695839

Contact

TEKNOLOGIAN TUTKIMUSKESKUS VTT

(Finland)

Contact person: Ms. HEINO Jaana

Website: http://www.vtt.fi

Phone: +358 20 722 3301

Contact

UNIVERSIDADE DO MINHO

(Portugal)

Contact person: Prof. CASAL Margarida

Website: http://www.uminho.pt

Phone: +351-253604310

Contact