"As demand for bioplastic resins grows, so does the demand for high-performance durable grades that are cost-effective," said Cereplast chairman and CEO Frederic Scheer, in a press release. "As the price of oil continues to rise, Cereplast Hybrid Resins get closer to parity with traditional plastics, providing an affordable, eco-friendly solution for companies that wish to reduce their environmental impact."
Biopropylene polypropylene (PP)-based resin consists of polypropylene encapsulating starch particles. Aside from providing a lower carbon footprint than traditional PP, key properties of PP have been retained, such as mold shrinkage, mold flow, surface appearance, chemical resistance, heat deflection temperature, and hinge performance.
The Hybrid 102D formulation's performance characteristics are similar to those of Cereplast's existing Hybrid 101 resin, but 102D has a higher starch content. Its main applications are products made with injection molding that require some ductility. The Hybrid 105D grade is designed for applications with thinner walls than the 101 grade, so it is aimed at high flow injection molding. It replaces the existing Hybrid 103 grade, improving on it with more consistent properties and processing.
Ann, seems like you've been writing about a variety of efforts--both research and commercial--that are really advancing the use of plants and metals in the production of bioplastics and other key materials. Very interesting stuff, and obviously, this is an area of focus for companies looking for alternative and more sustainable materials options. My question is have we arrived at some sort of tipping point driving what appears to be a multitude of efforts?
Beth, I don't think we're at a tipping point yet in bioplastics, in the sense that they're collectively about to take over the world of plastics in all areas. Far from it, as I learned in the reporting for my upcoming March feature on the subject (but they are beginning to make a dent). What I do think we're seeing is a wide-ranging search for sustainable materials and processes. There's a ton of research going on, in the best of the invention tradition: "what would happen if we...what would happen if it were possible to..." Some of it will stick, some of it won't. Meanwhile, we're developing tools for judging the worthiness of such efforts, such as life cycle analysis (LCA) and certification programs, such as those mentioned in the P&G wood pulp clamshell story:
Nice story, Ann. What a wide range of developments you've been covering in materials. In general, what is funding this? I would imagine with P&G, it's just a matter of designing with different existing materials. But with these new materials, it would take considerable dollars. Is the funding coming from government or industry? Both?
Good question, Rob. I've been trying to discover the source of the funding in each case, which is not always possible. With larger companies it's often internal. With smaller companies it's often funding by government or larger companies as partners. In the case of the universities, it can be multiple, and I've noticed research is often being conducted in partnership between the university team and either a company or a consortium. Regardless of who's doing the research, the Europeans and Asians seem to be more likely to have government funding.
Yes, it's always interesting to see where the funding comes from. I was surprised a few years ago to find out that oil companies were investing in research on crops that could best be used to create biofuel. I guess they're hedging their bets.
When I first heard that I just assumed it was greenwashing/corporate image PR. I still do, to some extent--the rest I'd guess, like you, is hedging their bets. I'm much more likely to believe that a small, new, earnest company like Ecovative, the mushroom packaging guys, or Be Green, the pulp clamshell guys, might be on the level and not greenwashing since they've got nothing to lose in doing so, than I am to believe that big oil companies are on the level, since they have so much to lose. OTOH, the big oil companies will have a lot more to lose if they don't get their alternative fuel act in gear. OTOOH, it's not like they haven't known for a few decades that dyno-fuels will run out one of these days.
I agree, Jerry. And we'd better stop destroying biomass stupidly if it's going to be in such demand for smarter uses.
The Freedonia Group analyst I interviewed for my upcoming bioplastics March feature said that by volume, bioplastics now represent 1/1000 of the entire plastics market and might become 1/100 of that volume in 10 years. Interestingly, the first bioplastic was developed in 1947, and began replacing steel and rubber in cars in the 1960s. It's made of castor bean oil.
I think it's a combination of things, Ann. Certainly greenwashing has to be a factor. Everybody loves to hate the oil companies. I'm sure they're well aware of their image problem. Another factor, I would think, is to be a leader when alternative fuels begin to take a bite out of fossil fuels (even if that does take forever).
Another factor I've seen is that young managers and executives have grown up in a world with Earth Day. I've seen this at a number of large corporations (like TI) that have sustainability groups. There are people in these corporations who sincerely want to edge their employers toward the green side.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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