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Solutions to reducing consumer electronic waste with biodegradable polymers

Solutions to reducing consumer electronic waste with biodegradable polymers

An all-new bioplastic for consumer electronics applications based on castor oil and its proprietary high-end amorphous polyphthalamide (PPA) chemistry has been introduce by Solvay Specialty Polymers. The material - Kalix HPPA 3000 series - offers a solution to the consumer electronics, has better mechanical properties and stain resistance than the plastics currently used- typically alloys of polycarbonate and ABS. Solvay has announced a major extension of its Kalix® high-performance polyamide (HPPA) product line, launching a new portfolio of bio-based high-performance polyamides offered for use in smart mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops and other smart mobile electronics. The introduction includes the Kalix® HPPA 3000 series, the first bio-based amorphous polyphthalamides (PPAs) and the Kalix® 2000 series, a family of bio-sourced semi-crystalline polyamide grades that provide outstanding impact performance.
The Kalix® 3000 series breaks new ground as the industry’s first bio-based amorphous PPA which delivers exceptional processability. The two new grades - Kalix®3850 and Kalix®3950 – provide less warp, reduced shrinkage, and low to no flash. This improved processability results in tighter dimensional tolerances and more cost-effective manufacturing due to fewer secondary operations such as deflashing. The two compounded grades consist of 16% renewable content according to the ASTM D6866 test method for determining bio-based carbon content. One of the key raw materials for the Kalix®3000 series is a renewably sourced material supplied by sister company Solvay Novecare. Under the development work, Solvay utilized the specialized resources of its R&D teams in India, Belgium, China and the U.S. while also taking advantage of new raw materials captively available since the Rhodia acquisition in 2012. Meanwhile, the new Kalix®2000 series of semi-crystalline materials, based on PA 6,10, consists of Kalix®2855 and Kalix®2955. They provide strong mechanical properties, high impact, exceptional surface finish, and low moisture absorption. These two compounded grades consist of 27% renewable content according to ASTM D6866. Both the Kalix® 2000 and 3000 series compounds offer manufacturers more sustainable options while providing the exceptional physical attributes and processing capabilities that are required in demanding structural applications such as injection molded chassis, housings, and covers. Both the 2000 and 3000 series contain monomers that come from the sebacic acid chain which is derived from non-food competing and GMO-free castor oil. Overall, in addition to their renewable content, the grades introduced today (between 50-55% glass fiber loading) provide greater strength and stiffness than most competing glass-reinforced materials including high-performance polyamides and lower-performing engineering plastics such as polycarbonate. Solvay’s long-time offering of Ixef® polyarylamide (PARA)and Kalix® HPPA grades have served the mobile electronics market the past 15 years. The new bio-based grades are expected to penetrate a greater share of smart mobile device applications due to their easier processability compared to Ixef® PARA. Ixef® will continue to be used in niche structural applications where the ultimate combination of strength, stiffness, and surface finish are key requirements. Both offer an excellent surface finish. They can be matched to a wide range of colors including the bright and light colors of the smart device industry and can be painted using existing coatings commonly used for portable electronic devices.

SUPLA has developed optimized PLA (Poly Lactic Acid) compounds for the consumer electronics industry based on lactides from Corbion Purac. The launching application is the world's first bioplastic touch screen computer, developed in cooperation with Kuender, an OEM/ODM for many brand customers. The high gloss housing of this computer is made from high heat PLA. Heat resistance is one of the key challenges for biopolymers today, as this has limited their suitability for consumer electronics in the past.  However, lactide monomers from Corbion Purac form the basis for improved performance PLA, and are therefore the preferred choice for SUPLA. In addition to increased heat resistance, the PLA blends used for the monitor screens also bring improved impact resistance, excellent high gloss finish and stable, precise processing. This is of critical importance for the large scale consumer electronics market, which also includes applications such as mobile phones, laptops, games consoles and tablets. A leading Taiwanese OEM/ODM of consumer electronics - Kuender has been working closely with SUPLA to ensure that the blends are suitable for commercial production of consumer electronics housings, and are looking forward to bringing the world's first bioplastic computer to market. Corbion Purac's lactide monomers are sourced from GMO free, renewable feedstocks such as sugarcane, and form the basis for high performance Poly Lactic Acid bioplastics (PLA). The resulting homopolymers have already proven to withstand boiling water, and can now boast performance characteristics to rival their oil-based counterparts.  In addition to the PLA blends, the company has developed techniques for the injection process, so it can provide a total solution for making green products. PHA is a bioplastic family which comes from biotechnologies. It belongs to the category of polymer which is generated from direct biosynthesis in contrast to other polymers such as PLA which need an additional step of fermentation to be made. PHAs are polyesters that are intra cellulary deposited by bacteria as energy storage or reserves.

Technology developed by Bio-on enables to manufacture a bioplastic from cane and sugar beets wastes. The bioplastic obtained is also absolutely biodegradable. Bio-on was awarded by Vinçotte to the ‘OK Biodegradable in water’ certification to its Minerv® PHA SC (Sugar Cane). MINERV-PHA is a high-performance PHA biopolymer, endowed with optimal thermal properties. Production needs which range from -10°C to a +180°C can be met through characterization. This product is particularly suitable for injection and extrusion methods for the production of objects. The material increases its biodegradability factor in bacteriologically impure water. This type of polymer biodegradation is the future of biodegradability. The natural dissolution of a biopolymer in bacteriologically impure water (e.g. river water) in a few days is a rare and very difficult result to obtain. This is the first biopolymer obtained from sugar co-products to achieve this important result. In just 10 days in normal river water, MINERV-PHA turns into river water or sea water. Natural and inexpensive methods such as biodegradation in water are the future of biodegradability. Biodegradation in natural water sources (e.g. river water) is the easiest way to destroy and then recover the elements. This permits maintenance-free materials (no handling, transport or distribution). Biodegradation in water is even more beneficial than biodegradation in soil (compost). The process remains the same: natural decomposition by bacteria. In room temperature water this decomposition happens without being forced in any way, allowing complete biopolymer biodegradation in just a few days. If we combine these features with the initial "performance" of the biopolymer (strength, flexibility, printability), it is easy to understand the final product quality. PHAs are also the only plastics biodegradable in the ocean. When combined with suitable nanofillers, the polymer can act as an electricity conductor. When it comes time for electronics made with MINERV-PHA to be recycled or landfilled, the bioplastic only needs to be exposed to simple water and soil to begin degrading.

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