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 100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?
15.06.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht What the size distribution of organisms tells us about the energetic efficiency of a lake
05.06.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks

18.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Diamond watch components

18.06.2018 | Process Engineering

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>