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NEC goes nuts to create new bioplastic

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August 31, 2010

NEC has developed a new bioplastic from non-edible cellulose and cardanol that's said to b...

NEC has developed a new bioplastic from non-edible cellulose and cardanol that's said to be strong enough for use in electronic equipment
(All images courtesy of NEC Corporation, unauthorized use not permitted)

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NEC has announced the development of a new biomass-based plastic produced by bonding non-edible cellulose with cardanol, a primary component of cashew nut shells. The new bioplastic is said to achieve a level of durability that is suitable for use in electronic equipment and boasts a high plant composition ratio of more than 70 per cent.

The main ingredient of the new bioplastic is cellulose, which is of course found in plant stems and wood. The cellulose is bonded with oil-like cardanol – extracted from the often discarded byproduct of cashew nut agriculture – to produce a durable thermoplastic which is said to be strong, heat and water resistant and non-crystalline. Unlike other cellulose-based plastics, which can contain large amounts of petrochemical-based additives such as plasticizers, the new bioplastic features a high plant component ratio of more than 70 per cent.

Whereas existing plant-based plastics may require precious crop land for their production, using non-edible plant sources as the main components of the new bioplastic will have little or no impact on the production of food crops. NEC's development is said to be twice as strong as polylactic acid resin (PLA) and can be molded in less than half the time. It also has about 1.3 times the heat resistance and three times more water resistant than cellulose acetate (CA).

Details of the new bioplastic are to be formally revealed at a meeting of The Chemical Society of Japan shortly. Meanwhile the company reports that development and improvement of the new product continues, with a goal of mass production for use in "a wide range of electronic equipment within the 2013 fiscal year."

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
1 Comment

Cardanol is amazing stuff and can impart unique properties to coatings and other polymers. However even though it is plant based; last I heard it was also a considered a synthetic estrogen (but different and possibly less dangerous than BPA and other plasticizers also considered to be synthetic estrogens).

Also, a high precentage of workers and others that come into contact with even very small amounts can develope an allergic reaction similar to getting poison ivy. Manufacturing, handling and waste disposal will all need careful consideration. The term "bio" doesn't automatically imply safer or greener; it's simply a different resource that happens to be renewable within a much shorter time frame than petroleum based raw materials.

Confidential
31st August, 2010 @ 07:56 am PDT
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