NEC will begin using a bioplastic hybrid to make housings for its personal computers this year. The move marks a major increase in its use of the materials from renewable resources. Since 2004, NEC has tested the material in “dummy cards” which are inserted in the memory card slot of a PC at the time of purchase. The NEC polymer is made from polylactic acid and kenaf fiber. NEC had hoped to introduce the material to PCs last year, but was delayed waiting for development of an environmentally safe flame retardant. Composition of the material is 90% biomass. “It is biodegradable, but the speed is considerably low because the molecular structure is modified to improve its durability,” an NEC spokesperson told Design News. The cost of the resin has been able about double oil-based plastics in the relatively small lots used so far for applications such as mobile phones. The NEC development goes way beyond technology in North America, where focus has been on disposable packaging. For example, NEC coupled the bioplastics with flame retardants made from metalhydroxides and other materials.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed a surface preparation method to improve joining carbon composites with aluminum, with potentially far-reaching ramifications for high-volume industrial applications.
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