Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biodegradable reinforced plastics could replace landfills with compost heaps, Cornell fiber scientist believes

10.09.2002


Instead of landfills clogged with computer and car parts, packaging and a myriad of other plastic parts, a Cornell University fiber scientist has a better idea. In coming years, he says, many of these discarded items will be composted.



The key to this "green" solution, says researcher Anil Netravali, is fully biodegradable composites made from soybean protein and other biodegradable plastics and plant-based fibers, developed at Cornell and elsewhere.

"These new fully biodegradable, environment-friendly green composites have good properties and could replace plastic parts in the interiors of cars and trains, in computers and in packaging materials and other consumer products," says Netravali, a professor of fiber science in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell. "They also provide excellent insulation against heat and noise for use in applications such as cars. Although the plant-based fibers may not be as strong as graphite and Kevlar®, for example, they are low in cost, biodegradable and replenishable on a yearly basis," he says.


Netravali’s findings are published in the September issue of the Journal of Materials Science .

He presented his research on green composites made from ramie fibers (which have a feel similar to silk) at the International Conference on Composites Engineering in Denver two years ago and in San Diego this summer. Ramie fibers are obtained from the stem of an Asian perennial shrub and the resin made from a soy protein isolate-polymer. He did this work in collaboration with Preeti Lodha, a graduate student who received her master’s degree from Cornell in 2000, and Sunghyun Nam, who completed her master’s in fiber science earlier this year.

Instead of nondegradable plastics based on petroleum products, green composites (also known as reinforced plastics) use natural fibers that, for strength, are embedded in a matrix made of a plant-based or other resin. Netravali points out that composites technology is not new -- he cites primitive bricks and walls made of straw mixed with mud as examples.

Netravali notes that most nondegradable plastic composites, made from petroleum-based or synthetic polyurethane, polyethylene and polypropylene, end up in landfills. Not much can be reused or recycled. Plant-based green composites, however, could, he says, become inexpensive alternatives for many mass-produced items. "They will be made from yearly renewable agricultural sources and would be environmentally friendly because they would naturally biodegrade once they were thrown on a compost pile."

Netravali’s research group is working with a number of fibers, including those obtained from kenaf stems, pineapple and henequen leaves and banana stems. The resin materials he is researching include commercial resins, such as polyvinyl alcohol and polylactones, and those derived from microorganisms. He currently is manipulating the composites to improve their mechanical properties, such as stiffness and strength, and to decrease their water absorption, which could start premature degradation.

The new composites could also substitute for wood in such applications as crates or building studs. "Trees take 25 years to grow; fibers we use, however, come from plants that grow to maturity in a year," Netravali points out.

Netravali agrees that green composites are likely to be more expensive than nonbiodegradable plastics, but as they gain acceptance and the volume increases, they will become less expensive, he says. For example, graphite fibers, commonly used as a reinforcement in space applications, cost over $180 a pound when first developed. Today they are less than $10 a pound.

Susan S. Lang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Sept02/green.plastics.ssl.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>