Archive for December 17th, 2012
Bioplastics are finding diverse applications in automobile manufacturing as replacements for petroleum-based plastics. They’re already appearing in automobile interiors and undercarriages — and even under the hood.
According to “The Bio-Based Materials Automotive Value Chain,” a report from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) of Ann Arbor, Mich., “the U.S. automotive industry is estimated to be a $370 billion industry for 2011, and the majority of this value is in the automotive parts sector.” This suggests that “penetrating even a small portion of this industry could provide significant returns to investment in new materials and technologies, such as bio-based automotive parts and components, if these technologies are successfully adopted by the industry.”
Bio-materials in a general sense can include natural fibers used as fillers and reinforcements for automotive applications, but here we’re primarily discussing bioplastics — polymers from plant sources such as soybeans, castor beans, corn or sugarcane that can replace petroleum-based polymers and provide equal or sufficient performance characteristics. Such materials, while not necessarily biodegradable, can offer reduced life-cycle environmental impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They can help companies fulfill increasingly restrictive environmental regulations and can provide a possible hedge against the volatility of the price of the petroleum feedstocks used for conventional plastic resins. Read the rest of this entry »