10/07/2018 – News / Innovation / Sustainability / Plastics / VTT / Finland
VTT develops a fully bio-based material to replace fossil-based plastics
Finnish organisation VTT has developed a thermally formable, biodegradable material that is 100 per cent bio-based. Its suitability for applications such as furniture makes it an attractive alternative to wood and biocomposite materials available in the market, not only because of its biodegradability but also due to its formability and colouring properties.
Biocomposites made from entirely bio-based raw materials can be used to replace fossil raw material derived plastics, which have traditionally been used in industrial applications. Being thermoformable, the material is well suited for various manufacturing processes and products.
“All the goals we set were achieved: the material is 100-per-cent bio-based, cellulose fibres account for a significant proportion, it looks good and it has excellent performance characteristics,” said Lisa Wikström, Research Team Leader from VTT – one of Europe’s leading research, development and innovation organisations.
Reuse, compost…or burn
At the end of their life-cycle, products made from the innovative material can either be re-used, composted, or burned to generate energy without any fossil-based carbon dioxide emissions. Because the material degrades into carbon dioxide and water due to microbial actions, it will not exacerbate the global microplastic problem.
“New bio-based, thermally-formable materials and composites are a promising alternative for the plastic products market,” enthused Ms Wikström in closing. “However, a big breakthrough is yet to come. A major shift requires co-operation between material and process developers as well as designers.”
The first model product is a designer chair manufactured as a joint effort between VTT, Plastec Finland and KO-HO Industrial design. The chair – manufactured using traditional compounding and injection moulding technologies – is made from wood-based cellulose fibres, renewable and industrially compostable, thermoformable polylactide, and bio-based additives.
VTT developed the material in the ACEL research programme funded by Clic Innovations Ltd, and the proof-of-concept stage was carried out with Plastec Finland, an injection moulding company.