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."