Biodegradable Thermoplastic Natural Fiber CompositeEPA Contract Number: EPD07039
Title: Biodegradable Thermoplastic Natural Fiber Composite
Investigators: Li, Yan
Small Business: NaSource Company
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Project Period: March 1, 2007 through August 31, 2007
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2007) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Green Buildings , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
This SBIR Phase I project aims to develop low-cost and fully biodegradable composites based on plant fibers and a thermoplastic lignin resin. The lignin resin will be based on chemically modified industrial byproduct lignins and will be specially formulated to obtain suitable tensile and shear strengths. It will be made compatible with plant fibers and thus afford good fiber-matrix adhesion and achieve fiber reinforcement effects. The resulting composites are expected to possess adequate mechanical properties for many structural and nonstructural applications such as building materials, furniture, packaging and casing for consumer products, and disposable containers. The success of this project could lead to the first commercialization of lignin-plant fiber composites. These composites can be manufactured in any size and shape using state-of-the-art robust processing technologies such as hot-melt pressing and injection-molding. They will be recyclable and fully degradable at end-of-life. Strong growth in the composite materials market will provide the niche as well as long-term potential for the biodegradable composite products.
As the worldwide plastic litter problem is ever-growing and the concept of sustainability is more widely accepted, the low cost and biodegradability of the proposed lignin-plant fiber composites will drive their commercial success and propel widespread use of environmentally friendly materials from renewable sources. The production of value-added composites using byproduct lignins will have a positive impact on the overall economics of any biorefinery process in terms of increasing revenue and profit. The development of biocomposites from abundant and renewable natural resources also provides a strategic alternative to rapidly depleting petroleum. It will contribute to increasing national security, protecting the environment, creating jobs, and boosting the economy.