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Category Archives: Bioplastics

Fujitsu’s Bioplastic Notebook PC

http://www.vestaldesign.com/blog/2005/08/fujitsu-bioplastic-notebook-computer.html

Fujitsu Bioplastic Notebook Computer

August 24th, 2005

PLA (polylactic acid) plastics aren’t just for food packaging anymore! Fujitsu’s 2005 spring model of its FMV-BIBLO NB80K notebook computer is the first of its kind to feature bioplastic components. While the polymer used in this computer is actually a 50/50 blend of PLA and petroleum based plastic (probably ABS or polycarbonate), GreenBiz reports that this polymer blend accounts for 60% of the plastic in the product.

Kara Johnson, Director of Materials at IDEO, explained in a materials lecture at Stanford that the future is bright, but 100% PLA has a long way to go before being able to meet the engineering requirements for consumer electronics, especially toughness, flame retardancy, and glass transition temperature. Fortunately, lots of sharp students and researchers are working on it.

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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Bioplastics, General Knowledge, R&D

 

Bioplastics – More Than Just Forks!

 

source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/21/business/green6a.php

The new bioplastics, more than just forks

March 21st, 2007

Meg Sobkowicz was on a fast career track in the oil industry. A bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University landed her a job at Schlumberger running wire-line logs on oil wells in New Mexico. Next stop was to be Casper, Wyoming, the heart of the U.S. West’s oil and natural gas boom. But she jumped off the track.

“I knew that working in the oil industry was not in sync with my values,” Sobkowicz, 28, said. “I wanted something with an alternative-energy connection.”

Now, as a doctoral student at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Sobkowicz is one of a growing number of chemists who are developing bio-based plastics that can supplant those made from oil. Sobkowicz is working on improving the durability of plastics derived from corn and other plants, developing nanoscale fibers from cotton to reinforce them.

Bioplastics can offer several benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the production process, minimizing toxic waste and promoting rural economic development by using local crops. They can also be biodegradable.

While disposable cutlery, food packaging and even fabrics made from corn have been on the market for several years, companies are now moving toward applications where performance, heat resistance and durability are more important. These applications typically require that biopolymers be reinforced with kenaf fiber — similar to jute — or other fillers.

Products based on durable biopolymers have begun appearing in the marketplace. Japanese companies like NEC, Unitika and NTT DoCoMo are making cellphones with casings made from bioplastics. Toyota Motor uses bioplastic reinforced with kenaf for the rear package tray in its Lexus ES300 model.

The largest commercial producer of bioplastic is NatureWorks, owned by the food-processing giant Cargill. The company’s plant in Blair, Nebraska, uses corn sugar to produce polylactide plastic packaging materials and its Ingeo-brand fibers. It churns out white pellets that other manufacturers use.

The second-largest biopolymer producer is Metabolix of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It makes a different form of polymer for applications ranging from rigid molded items to flexible film for shopping or garbage bags.

Metabolix claims that its plastics are biodegradable in environments like backyard composting bins, wetlands and the ocean. According to the Biodegradable Products Institute, bioplastics should decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a “controlled composting environment” — a municipal facility, for instance — in less than 90 days.

“A lot of bio-based products are tossed out like cigarette butts, and for various reasons never decompose,” said James Barber, chief executive of Metabolix. “I can’t conceive of a system that’s so perfect that none of this stuff will escape into nature. For the stuff that does escape, we’re a backstop, ensuring that it won’t last thousands of years.”

But representatives of the petrochemical industry point out that plastics made from fossil fuels can be biodegradable, too. And they note that most bio-based plastics, if tossed in a landfill rather than a municipal-scale composting facility, might as well be a tin can or a conventional plastic bottle.

“It’s not just bio-based versus petroleum-based,” said Judith Dunbar, director for environmental issues at the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council, which represents hundreds of plastics manufacturers.

Even some scientists who are creating bioplastics caution against overstating their benefits. John Warner, director of the Center for Green Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, said it was unlikely they would offer advantages in every application.

“It’s not about finding the magic material that’ll replace all bad materials,” he said. “But if you promote a replacement material, it’s got to do as good of a job, not just sell itself as a swell biopolymer. And it’s got to be cost effective. We’ll get there.”

* * * [ PICTURE NOT WITH ORIGINAL ARTICLE ] * * *


Ventilex Dryer/Cooler for Bioplastic

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Bioplastics, R&D, Recylcing

 

Plastic Bone Grafts From Plants

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070319175907.htm

Source: Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Date: March 26, 2007

Plant Biomaterials Could Become A Source For Bone Grafts

Science Daily The National Science Foundation (NSF) has Rutgers scientists looking to plants as a source of materials for cardiovascular stents, bone and tissue grafts, antiviral and antibacterial food packaging, and personal care products. The research will develop “hybrid” materials by combining naturally occurring plant substances, such as starch from corn or potatoes, with synthetic degradable polymer biomaterials.

This initiative can yield cost-effective, bio-based materials to replace petroleum-derived plastics while creating new economic opportunities for American farmers now threatened by low commodity prices.The two-year project is supported by a $600,000 NSF Partnerships for Innovation program grant to the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials (NJCBM) based at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The project will be led by NJCBM Director Joachim Kohn and Assistant Research Professor Carmine Iovine, a new Rutgers faculty member. “This project takes inspiration from George Washington Carver, whose lifework produced products from peanut and soy crops that revolutionized the economy of the South, freeing it from dependence on cotton,” Kohn said.

Iovine, recognized for his more than 40 years of industrial experience and expertise in biopolymer and synthetic polymer chemistry, came to Rutgers from New Jersey-based National Starch and Chemical Company, where he served as vice president for research and development of National’s parent, the ICI Group.

The project team will include Professor Michael Pazzani, vice president for research and graduate and professional education; Assistant Professor Mikhail Chikindas and Research Professor Kit Yam of Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Food Technology (CAFT) and department of food science; Research Chemist LinShu Liu of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Regional Research Center; and NJCBM and CAFT industrial members.

Exploring somewhat different applications with NJCBM industrial partner Salvona Technologies of Dayton, N.J., the team will evaluate the possible use of the hybrid polymers for the delivery of fragrances in personal care and other consumer applications.

“The diversity of potential applications of the new materials has brought together an exciting group which stands to gain from the new technology that this partnership will be developing,” said Iovine.

A unique Rutgers resource from the Rutgers Business School will pair education with research through its participation in the project. The MBA Interfunctional Team Consulting Program will bring graduate students into this real-world experience where they can sharpen their problem-solving and team-building skills while conducting valuable market analyses and surveys for the products potentially emerging from the project.

Materials scientists, polymer chemists and biomedical engineers will bring their expertise in synthetic polymers and biomedical technology to the project. Agriculture and food scientists and engineers will add their knowledge and skills in plant materials, biopolymers and food industry technology.

“With NSF support, our project will bring together these normally disconnected streams of science and technology, leveraging the skills, capabilities and knowledge of all the partners in this endeavor,” said Iovine.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Bioplastics, General Knowledge, R&D

 

Plastic – From Potatoes?

Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/06/19/healthscience/snbioplastic.php

Bioplastics lifts garbage out of the trash heap

By Nonny de la Pena

Published: June 19, 2007

Carbon dioxide. Orange peels. Chicken feathers. Olive oil. Potato peels. E. coli bacteria. It is as if chemists have gone Dumpster diving in their hunt to make biodegradable, sustainable and renewable plastics. Most bioplastics are made from plants like corn, soy, sugar cane and switch grass, but scientists have recently turned to trash in an effort to make so-called green polymers, essentially plastics from garbage.

Geoff Coates, a chemist at Cornell, one of the leaders in the creation of green polymers, pointed to a golden brown square of plastic in a drying chamber.

“It kind of looks like focaccia baking, doesn’t it?” Coates said. “That’s almost 50 percent carbon dioxide by weight.”

Coates’s laboratories occupy almost the entire fifth floor of the Spencer T. Olin Laboratory at Cornell, and have a view not only of Cayuga Lake and the hills surrounding the school in New York State, but of a coal power plant that has served as a kind of inspiration. It was here that Coates discovered the catalyst needed to turn CO2 into a polymer.

With Scott Allen, a former graduate student, Coates has started a company called Novomer, which has partnered with several companies on joint projects. Coates imagines CO2 being diverted from factory emissions into an adjacent facility and turned into plastic.


The search for biocomposite materials dates from 1913, when both a French and a British scientist filed for patents on soy-based plastic.

“There was intense competition between agricultural and petrochemical industries to win the market on polymers,” said Bernard Tao, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue.


Scientist Scott Allen drains the polymer reactor
after a processing at Cornell University
in Ithaca, N.Y., May, 2007.

Much of the early research on bioplastics was supported by Henry Ford, who believed strongly in the potential of the soybean. One famous 1941 photo shows Ford swinging an ax head into the rear of a car to demonstrate the strength of the soy-based biocomposite used to make the auto body. But soy quickly lost out to petrochemical plastics.

“In those days you had a lot more oil around,” Tao said. “You didn’t have to wait until the growing season.”

And there was another problem: permeability. The soy plastic was not waterproof. “Petroleum is biologically and relatively chemically inert, ” Tao explained. “Most living systems require water.”

Fossil fuels quickly dominated the plastics market. Now, agriculture-based plastics are back in the running, and with the type of catalysts developed by Coates and others, a whole new array of polymers has become commercially viable.

Choosing carbon dioxide as a feedstock for a polymer was not an obvious choice. It was what Coates called “a dead molecule.”

Mix carbon dioxide with an epoxide, he said, “and the two would just stare at each other for a hundred years.” The key is in finding the right catalyst to open a pathway for the carbon dioxide and the epoxide to bond.

“Catalysts are like a matchmaker who make a marriage and then can go off and make other marriages,” Coates said. “They accelerate a reaction without being consumed by that reaction.” His catalyst – beta-diiminate zinc acetate, or “zinc-based pixie dust,” in Coates’s words – was designed to speed “a reaction from a geological time scale to the laboratory time scale.”

Green polymer businesses seem to be springing up everywhere.

Rodenburg BioPolymers, a Dutch company, makes plastic from potato waste. Metabolix, based in Boston, grows a natural form of polyester inside genetically modified E. coli bacteria.

Tao, of Purdue, said history was repeating itself, in a way. “Its almost like we’re seeing the same competition over who will dominate the plastic market as we did a hundred years ago,” he said. “But this time it is a very different race.”

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2007 in Bioplastics, R&D, Recylcing

 

Who’s Making Bioplastics?

source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/21/business/green6a.php

The new bioplastics, more than just forks

Meg Sobkowicz was on a fast career track in the oil industry. A bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University landed her a job at Schlumberger running wire-line logs on oil wells in New Mexico. Next stop was to be Casper, Wyoming, the heart of the U.S. West’s oil and natural gas boom. But she jumped off the track.

“I knew that working in the oil industry was not in sync with my values,” Sobkowicz, 28, said. “I wanted something with an alternative-energy connection.”

Now, as a doctoral student at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Sobkowicz is one of a growing number of chemists who are developing bio-based plastics that can supplant those made from oil. Sobkowicz is working on improving the durability of plastics derived from corn and other plants, developing nanoscale fibers from cotton to reinforce them.

Bioplastics can offer several benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the production process, minimizing toxic waste and promoting rural economic development by using local crops. They can also be biodegradable.

While disposable cutlery, food packaging and even fabrics made from corn have been on the market for several years, companies are now moving toward applications where performance, heat resistance and durability are more important. These applications typically require that biopolymers be reinforced with kenaf fiber — similar to jute — or other fillers.

Products based on durable biopolymers have begun appearing in the marketplace. Japanese companies like NEC, Unitika and NTT DoCoMo are making cellphones with casings made from bioplastics. Toyota Motor uses bioplastic reinforced with kenaf for the rear package tray in its Lexus ES300 model.

The largest commercial producer of bioplastic is NatureWorks, owned by the food-processing giant Cargill. The company’s plant in Blair, Nebraska, uses corn sugar to produce polylactide plastic packaging materials and its Ingeo-brand fibers. It churns out white pellets that other manufacturers use.

The second-largest biopolymer producer is Metabolix of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It makes a different form of polymer for applications ranging from rigid molded items to flexible film for shopping or garbage bags.

Metabolix claims that its plastics are biodegradable in environments like backyard composting bins, wetlands and the ocean. According to the Biodegradable Products Institute, bioplastics should decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a “controlled composting environment” — a municipal facility, for instance — in less than 90 days.

“A lot of bio-based products are tossed out like cigarette butts, and for various reasons never decompose,” said James Barber, chief executive of Metabolix. “I can’t conceive of a system that’s so perfect that none of this stuff will escape into nature. For the stuff that does escape, we’re a backstop, ensuring that it won’t last thousands of years.”

But representatives of the petrochemical industry point out that plastics made from fossil fuels can be biodegradable, too. And they note that most bio-based plastics, if tossed in a landfill rather than a municipal-scale composting facility, might as well be a tin can or a conventional plastic bottle.

“It’s not just bio-based versus petroleum-based,” said Judith Dunbar, director for environmental issues at the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council, which represents hundreds of plastics manufacturers.

Even some scientists who are creating bioplastics caution against overstating their benefits. John Warner, director of the Center for Green Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, said it was unlikely they would offer advantages in every application.

“It’s not about finding the magic material that’ll replace all bad materials,” he said. “But if you promote a replacement material, it’s got to do as good of a job, not just sell itself as a swell biopolymer. And it’s got to be cost effective. We’ll get there.”

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2007 in Bioplastics, General Knowledge, R&D