Architectural opportunity

Researchers at the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer WKI Institute for Wood Research are developing bioplastic profiles that use regionally-available plant residues, such as wheat straw, as a filler material. Fraunhofer WKI is focusing on compounding and profile extrusion, as well as the characterisation of the bio-profiles; the University of Stuttgart is focusing on implementation of the developed materials in architectural and construction sectors.

“Thanks to the good formability during the extrusion process, the bio- profiles can be utilised not only for windows and façades but also for diverse architectural applications,” says Dr Arne Schirp at Fraunhofer WKI. “An important aspect is to fulfil the

requirements for the profiles in terms of fire retardancy, UV stability, thermal insulation and durability,” says Schirp. “To achieve a high level of fire-retar-

hemp, show very good thermo-mechanical properties. The big benefit is the reduction in the weight of the parts, which can extend to 25%, according to Jean-Marie Bourgeois-Jacquet, Sales and Business Development. Last year, NAFILean parts appeared in some 13

different car models, with the total number of vehicles produced numbering around 3m. The forecast for 2022 (which was made before the impact on car production of the coronavirus emergency) was to reach 7m vehicles. APM intends to introduce a new and more rigid

generation of products around the end of the year. NAFILean Stiff is being developed for two new vehicle projects, says Bourgeois-Jacquet. The mate- rial is a lighter alternative to glass fibre-reinforced PP offering a similar tensile modulus of around 3.5GPa.

Swedish biocomposite maker Trifilon went into

commercial operation at a new plant at Nyköping last year, producing mainly PP-based compounds using hemp sourced from European farms as a reinforcement. It describes the compounds as “second generation” materials, which it explains as meaning that the plant ingredients are used to improve performance rather than simply to bulk out the plastic. “First generation biocomposites were great for

their era, considering cost, the upcycling of a waste stream, and the impact on CO2

footprint,” says

David Sandquist, Chief Research Officer at Trifilon and a former VTT specialist. “But their recipes greatly limit their mechanical properties, in part because the cellulosic components are not opti-


dancy, we pursue the approach of introducing flame retardants into the outer layer of the profiles by means of co-extrusion.” �

mally bound to other components in the compos- ite. Trifilon studied the interactions between hemp fibres and the polymer molecules and developed smart ways to optimise those bonds.” The company uses proprietary techniques to cut and process the hemp fibres in order to optimise them as a reinforcement. Its new produc- tion plant, which has two lines, provides a capacity of 4,000 tonnes/yr of its BioLite products for injection moulding applications. Jeremiah Dutton, Chief Sales Officer, says the company is seeing interest from industries as diverse as packaging, toys, furniture, automotive, and electrical. Trifilon recently announced a project with another Swedish materials company, RenCom, which aims to use the lignin by-products from forestry industries to form plastic resins. It says the partnership has already produced a prototype, hemp-based “third genera- tion” biocomposite with all primary ingredients derived from biological sources.



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