Densified pulp granules are easy to store, handle and dose, says Performance BioFilaments

that can be used for single use products, he says. Fibres from agro-industrial residues are also

interesting, Carasco claims, due to their low cost and high availability. This is especially the case in countries, such as Brazil, where biobased ethanol and polyethylene is produced from sugarcane. Bagasse fibre results as a side stream and accounts for around one third of the sugarcane biomass. He says results will shortly be published confirming that bagasse fibres can contribute to the improvement of mechanical performance in biocomposite products.

Fibre handling In Finland, research organisation VTT has carried out studies and development in fibre handling for compounding of natural fibres in thermoplastics. “We have, for example, developed a unique com- pactor device for natural fibre pre-processing before compounding and a novel compounder, which also enables the introduction of long natural fibres to thermoplastics,” says Kirsi Immonen, Senior Scientist, Solutions for Natural Resources and Environment. Meanwhile, Canada-based Performance


Engineers at work on VTT’s foam-forming plant at its site at Jyväskylä in Finland (see story on page 27 for more details)

BioFilaments (PBI) reports success in enhancing material properties of PP and PA, as well as PLA biocomposites. Working in collaboration with the NRC Automotive and Surface Transportation Re- search Center, it used a densified blend of nanofibril- lated cellulose (NFC) and unfibrillated Kraft pulp. PBI’s commercially available, dry granules were specifically developed to improve storage, handling and dosage of biofibres for a wide range of applica- tions. Managing Director Gurminder Minhas says good dispersion of the granulated fibres is observed in the biocomposites as well as good adhesion between the fibres and the polymer matrix. Tensile strength gains of between 9-14% are seen for PP-composites, 3-14% for PA-composites, and 19-31% for PLA-composites with fibre loadings of between 10% and 30%, he says. Tensile modulus

gains of 5-76% were observed for PP, 45-116% for PA, and 41-97% for PLA. Flexural strength gains reached 26-64% for PP, 3-11% for PA, and 40-45% for PLA. And HDT increased by up to 60% for PP, 37% for PA, and 134% for PLA. Minhas says a comprehensive evaluation of

compatibilisers allowed for fine-tuning of the mechanical properties for each of the biocompos- ites. A recyclability study was also conducted and showed that PA and PLA biocomposites could be subjected to at least five cycles of moulding, testing and grinding while maintaining tensile strength and elongation properties. Tensile and elongation properties of the PP biocomposites were only slightly reduced over seven recycling cycles.

Automotive interest Developed by New Zealand-based Scion Research, Woodforce is an engineered diced wood fibre- based pellet designed to provide reinforcement in polyolefin compounds (it is currently produced on a contract basis in Germany by Sonae Arauco). Business Development Manager Jeremy Warnes says Scion is seeing good demand in Europe for trial orders, with several compounders planning large commercial production runs within the next 12 months for different but undisclosed applications. “Demand for Woodforce samples is also coming

from Asia, where the interest in natural fibre reinforced plastics is growing,” he says. “Japan, in particular, has significant research effort going into cellulose nanofibres (CNF) for thermoplastics. However, many companies are recognising that CNF still has challenges for commercial supply and they are looking at more readily available, cost




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