Plastics processors are experiencing increased pressure to use sustainable or renewable thermoplastic materials. In automotive applications and in other applications, one method to meet this challenge has been to use polyolefines filled with short natural fibers for parts that are not mechanically demanding. Unfortunately, so far, there have been no sustainable or 100% natural biocomposites for performance applications with high mechanical demand.
Biomer (Germany) and AIMPLAS (Spain) have developed within the EU project consortium Ecoplast a continuous production process for high strength renewable thermoplastic composites. These biocomposites are 100% renewable, and have unexpected properties that enable the materials to be used for high-performance and highly demanding applications. The biocomposites show a modulus of over 6000 MPa, a tensile strength of 70 MPa, and an impact strength of 40 kJ/m2. The biocomposites can be thermoformed by hot pressing at 175°C. They can be used for structures in transport that need to withstand large temperature changes from –40°C to +60°C, or for stiff, shock absorbing arrangements.
Biomer focused for more than 15 years on transforming PHB biopolyesters (polyhydroxybutyrate) into high-performance durable bioplastics that are designed to be used in technical applications and last for years. The latest developments are fogging-free PHB thermoplasts that can be used in car interiors and that parallel PP or HD-PE in most mechanical properties. Biomer formulations are fully biodegradable in soil, sludge, rivers, ocean, or in garden composts at the end of life.
AIMPLAS is a Center for Innovation and Technology (CIT) and a non-profit research association with around 400 associated companies (the majority of them SMEs). AIMPLAS has offered its services to the Plastic industry sector since 1990. Its fields of work are related to technological research and development on plastic materials & products and their transformation processes. The continuous production process of the PHB composites mentioned above was established at AIMPLAS.