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NEC Corporation has developed a bioplastic with substantially higher heat resistance and strength (rigidity) than conventional bioplastics composed of polylactic acid, by reinforcing the polylactic acid with kenaf.
The newly developed bioplastic has the following features:
1) Thermal deformation temperature raised from 67C to 120C and bending modulus (Note 3) improved from 4.5 giga-pascal (GPa) to 7.6 GPa by reinforcing the polylactic acid material of a traditional bioplastic with 20% kenaf fiber, enabling strength and heat resistance properties exceeding those of conventional oil-based plastics used for packaging such as ABS resin and fiberglass-reinforced ABS resin.
2) No deterioration of vital characteristics such as fluidity and moisture resistance during polylactic acid formation.
These features not only enable use of bioplastic in high-end applications such as electronic devices, but also allow the development of value-added applications for kenaf fiber, which contributes greatly to the prevention of global warming.
Bioplastics composed of organic materials such as polylactic acid are currently in the spotlight as eco-friendly plastics that effectively utilize reproductionable biomass materials. However, bioplastics developed until now have been difficult to use in electronic devices due to inadequacies such as low thermal deformation tolerance and brittleness.
NEC has responded by successfully developing a bioplastic that features a thermal deformation temperature 1.8 times higher and a strength (bending modulus) 1.7 times higher than conventional polylactic acid bioplastics by reinforcing the polylactic acid with kenaf fiber.
Kenaf grows quickly and has the highest CO2 absorption capacity of any plant, thereby helping to prevent global warming, and until now has most commonly been used as a substitute for existing materials such as paper fiber and animal feed. This new development, however, will broaden the application range of kenaf into previously unexplored fields such as electronic devices. The kenaf fiber used by NEC in its development was supplied by Nature Trust, the first company to successfully grow kenaf in bulk (in Australia), so NEC will have no problem maintaining a stable supply from this company once practical application commences.
NEC plans to realize practical application of the new bioplastic in electronic devices within the next two years, and will continue to enhance its research and development projects in this field.
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