Sunday 21 September 2014

Biocomposites from Starch, Natural Fibres and Polymers

More from AIMPLAS, Valencia...
Leon Mentik of Roquette (France) explained how they bought maize, potatoes, wheat, tapioca and peas for processing and used the extracted starches to make bioplastics.  After cellulose, starch was the second most abundant polymer on the planet with 1.3 billion tonnes being produced annually in plants.  6% of this (80 million tonnes/year) is extracted very easily, the by-products being proteins and fibre for use as food.  Starch is highly reactive and easily grafted or alloyed with other materials to add desirable functionalities.  It can be used directly to make starch-based plastics, either as blends with other polymers or in the form of durable thermoplastic starch.  It can also be easily hydrolysed to glucose to provide the starting point for the whole range of bio-based or bacterially produced polymers.

Gaialene® is Roquette’s durable, i.e non-compostable, starch-based plastic which has been certified against ISO 14040/44 by Price Waterhouse Coopers with a carbon footprint of 0.74 kg CO2 eq./kg resin or ~1/3rd that of PP.  It has applications in replacing polyolefins in  films, injection moulding and foams, to produce  shopping bags (for recycling or incineration), multilayer shrink wrap, moulded paint containers, fabric coatings, mud-guards, sound insulation and packaging foams.  It is fully recyclable, GMO-free and does not compete with food crops.

Sergio Fita of Aimplas provided another comprehensive overview of the Technological Institute and its work on composites for those who joined the conference late.  He reiterated the variability issue which arises because natural fibres are inherently variable and moisture sensitive and said AIMPLAS was working to overcome this deficiency.  Examples of successes were the woven Flax/Jute battery case which used an epoxidised acrylate soybean-oil resin (ASEO); the Roadside Grit Box using wet compression moulded Flax/biobased unsaturated PET resin (thermoset); the woven flax/PLA tractor door, the Cayley project honeycombs based on FR-treated bio-resins and natural fibres and the Ecoplast project for automotive parts made by extruding PHB polymer onto flax fabrics, calendaring to impregnate and then moulding to shape.

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