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Automobiles Push Renewable Plastic and Composite Use

SpecialChem / Michel Biron – Feb 18, 2013

Natural fibers slowly fell into disuse for performance problems due to low mechanical properties, high moisture absorption, ageing sensitivity. Now, there is a renewed interest related to environmental, economical, regulation, societal and marketing reasons. Main ways -natural fiber reinforcement and bioplastics- allow to introduce from 20% up to nearly 100% of natural products in plastics parts.

Natural fibers can be used to reinforce all the plastics and rubbers, in all proportions, and can be produced using dry or wet processing methods. Performances cover a broad range of characteristics, for example from less than 10MPa up to more than 40MPa for strength and from less than 1GPa up to 4GPa for tensile modulus.

Compared to glass fiber, the weight of natural fiber parts can be higher for poor mechanical performance or lower for performing composites. Costs can be reduced by 10-30%. The natural fiber composites market reaches approximately US $350 million in 2012 with an 11% CAGR.

Main applications include Seat backs, Seat padding, Side and back doors and other panels, parcel shelves, Insulation, Interior carpets and miscellaneous applications.

Biobased conventional macromolecules entered automotive industry thanks to a progressive approach limiting their level in the early mass produced parts. Then, new technological advances result in a progressive increase of the bio-content.

Soy-based polyols are often used for polyurethane foams suitable for seats, headrests, armrests, and soundproofing. Ford debuted soy-based polyurethane foams in the seats of its 2008 Mustang and saves annually some 9,000 tonnes of CO2 emission.

Castor oil-based Bio-polyamides with a bio content between 60% and nearly 100% are used in some fuel lines. Bio-polyesters, 20% up to 60% biomass, enter in mass produced models.

Car doors attract the interest of many carmakers using various solutions such as Coixil, Express technology , Fibroflax, Fibropur, Lignotock, Lignoflex, Ligneco etc In addition bio-sourced materials are...

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