NEC Develops Cashew-Derived Plastic

DN Staff

August 31, 2010

3 Min Read
NEC Develops Cashew-Derived Plastic

NEC Corp. is developing a new durable bioplastic that matescellulosic material from plants with cardanol, a byproduct ofcashew processing.

The technology is significant for design engineers because mostbioplastics lack adequate durability for electronics applications. The new polymer, whichwill not be commercialized until early 2013, is also significant because morethan 70 percent of the compound is made of plant materials. Many bioplasticsare heavily loaded with oil-based additives or are blended with oil-basedplastics to improve strength and thermal resistance.

"One of the main appeals of our cellulose and cardanolbioplastic is its durability when compared with existing products and potentialapplication for a wide range of uses," says Joseph Jasper, a press officer ofNEC Corp.

After enhancing its reactivity, cardanol is chemicallybonded with cellulose, which NEC says produces a durable thermoplastic that isstrong, heat- and water-resistant and non-crystalline, due to the bondedcardanol's unique molecular structure consisting of flexible and rigid parts.

"Although there aren't any specific modifications with otherplastics that we are preparing to announce, NEC will continue to seekimprovement with its products and technologies," Jasper told Design News.

NEC says the new bioplastic has important advantagescompared to polylactic acid, a widely used and fast-developing bioplastic, and cellulose acetate(CA), which has been widely used as a photographic film base.

  • Molding time is less than 50 percent of PLAbecause of its noncrystalline chemical structure. Its molding time is comparableto conventional cellulose-based and petroleum-based plastics.

  • It has twice the strength of existing PLA, and iscomparable to conventional CA resin.

  • It has more than twice the heat resistance(glass transition temperature) of PLA, and approximately 1.3 times more than CAresin.

  • Water resistance is comparable to PLA, and approximatelythree times more than CA resin.

"It is expected that NEC's cellulose and cardanol bioplasticcould become available at a lower price than existing polylactic acid-basedplastics," says Jasper. "In terms of further price comparisons, NEC's latestbioplastic is expected to be competitive with petroleum-based plastics as well,but we do not have any specific figures at this time."

Several researchers have been looking for expandedopportunities to use cardanol, an oil-like material that is extracted fromcashew nut shells. Cardanol is already used in resins, coatings, frictionalmaterials, and surfactants used as pigment dispersants for water-based inks.

Cardanol-phenol resins were developed in the 1920s by achemist named Mortimer T. Harvey. They have a coefficient of friction that isless sensitive to temperature changes than phenol-formaldehyde resins, and areused for vehicle brakes.

NEC says that only a fraction of the cardanol obtained fromcashew nut processing is used in the industrial field.

Cashew nuts are widely cultivated in India and Vietnam. NEC saysit is ensured of a stable supply of Cardanol as an additive for resincomposites to produce finished products.

The newly developed bioplastic was formally announced todayat The Chemical Society of Japan/Kanto Branch meeting at the University ofTsukuba.

One remaining issue is who will actually produce the resin. "Manufacturersare being taken into consideration, but none has been decided at this time,"Jasper says.

NEC Develops Cashew-Derived Plastic

NEC Develops Cashew-Derived Plastic_A

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