Safer and greener plastics

August 21, 2007

With prices rising and environmental issues taking centre stage, EUREKA project E! 2819- FACTORY ECOPLAST is combining natural fibres with thermoplastics to create new recyclable compounds for consumer products and audio components. As world markets expand, especially in developing countries, the need for new materials to satisfy production requirements continues to grow. At the same time, high oil prices push up the costs of petroleum derivatives such as polymers, in other words, plastics, used in innumerable consumer items.

One recent and very interesting line of research in the field of materials involves the combination of natural fibres with thermoplastics. Wood, flax, hemp and jute are just some of the natural materials now showing promise in this sort of use.

Partners in the EUREKA FACTORY ECOPLAST project decided to join efforts to develop a palletised compound suitable for injection moulding and extrusion processes, combining two or more material components in such a way that the resulting compound is better than any of the individual components alone.

"We need to develop new materials that are cheaper and better," says FACTORY ECOPLAST coordinator Uros Znidaric of Slovenia's ISOKON. "Ideally, such materials should also be more easily recyclable, reducing environmental impact." Project partners looked at compounding conditions, palletising processes, deformation properties, compatibility between natural fibres and thermoplastics, injection moulding parameters and possible applications.

"Once we had enough information about different compound properties, we then focused on product selection," says Znidaric. Final selection was based on key properties, including rigidity, weight and price. The ability to saw and drill the material was also considered, as well as wear and tear on machine equipment used in processing final products.

"The project was very successful," says Znidaric. "We were able to define precise technological parameters for extrusion and an optimal palletising process for making compounds for injection moulding and extrusion. The new materials are suitable for use in the manufacture of a wide variety of products, including vacuum cleaner and lawn mower parts, storage boxes and even golf tees."

Sounds good Acoustic properties also became a focus of investigation. Znidaric explains, "Although wood is known for its good acoustics and is often used in musical instruments, today a lot of speaker boxes are made of injection-moulded polymers. We wanted to see if our new composite, which contains wood, might display better acoustic properties."

FACTORY ECOPLASTIC results show that the wood fibre-filled composites developed under the project are indeed well suited to use in loudspeaker boxes. Znidaric says both damping of sound radiation and sound wave resistance for the material are comparable to those displayed by medium density fibreboard (MDF), one of the most commonly used materials in this application.

Further tests of the project's new 'EUREKA' speaker boxes show higher frequency acoustic performance on a par with market leaders such as JVC and Nakamichi. The potential for FACTORY ECOPLASTIC commercialisation, say partners, is therefore very high.
-end-
More information: Uros Znidaric, Isokon Plastics, Mestni Trg, 5a 3210 Slovenske Konjice Slovenia. Tel: +386 3 216 79 97, email: uros.znidaric@isokon.si, www.isokon.si

EUREKA

Related Polymers Articles from Brightsurf:

Seeking the most effective polymers for personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment, like face masks and gowns, is generally made of polymers.

Ultraheavy precision polymers
An environmentally friendly and sustainable synthesis of ''heavyweight'' polymers with very narrow molecular weight distributions is an important concept in modern polymer chemistry.

FSU researchers help develop sustainable polymers
Researchers at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering have made new discoveries on the effects of temperature on sustainable polymers.

Structural colors from cellulose-based polymers
A surface displays structural colors when light is reflected by tiny, regular structural elements in a transparent material.

Growing polymers with different lengths
ETH researchers have developed a new method for producing polymers with different lengths.

Exciting new developments for polymers made from waste sulfur
Researchers at the University of Liverpool are making significant progress in the quest to develop new sulfur polymers that provide an environmentally friendly alternative to some traditional petrochemical based plastics.

Polymers can fine-tune attractions between suspended nanocubes
In new research published in EPJ E, researchers demonstrate a high level of control over a type of colloid in which the suspended particles take the form of hollow, nanoscale cubes.

Functional polymers to improve thermal stability of bioplastics
One of the key objectives for contemporary chemistry is to improve thermomechanical properties of polymers, in particular, thermostability of bioplastics.

Fluorescent technique brings aging polymers to light
Modern society relies on polymers, such as polypropylene or polyethylene plastic, for a wide range of applications, from food containers to automobile parts to medical devices.

Polymers to the rescue! Saving cells from damaging ice
Research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society by University of Utah chemists Pavithra Naullage and Valeria Molinero provides the foundation to design efficient polymers that can prevent the growth of ice that damages cells.

Read More: Polymers News and Polymers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.