(14b) All Green Composites for a Sustainable Manufacturing: Where We Are and Future Directions!

Mohanty, A. K., University of Guelph

Biobased economy is challenging to agriculture, forestry, academia, government and industry. The incorporation of bio-resources, e.g. crop-derived green plastics and plant derived biofibers (natural fibers) into composite materials are gaining prime importance in designing and engineering green composites. Biocomposites derived from natural fibers and traditional polymers like polypropylene, polyethylene, epoxy and polyesters have been developed for automotive parts and building structures. Renewable resource based bioplastics like polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), biobased polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT), cellulosic plastics, soy/corn/wheat protein based bioplastics and vegetable oils derived bioresins need value-added and diverse applications to compete with the fossil fuel derived plastics. Through reactive blends, composites and nanocomposites new biobased materials are under constant development. The door is opening and path is clearing-up for many emerging biopolymers and biobased composite materials that are poised to create a major break through in the commercial in-roads.

Natural fibers are lighter, less expensive, have superior specific strength, require comparatively less energy to produce, are good for the environment, biodegradable and have superior sound abatement characteristics as compared to synthetic glass fibers. All of these attributes are quite favorable, especially in the automotive sector where even a fractional weight saving can make a significant contribution to energy savings with reduced gasoline consumption and with added advantages of eco-friendliness. It is true that natural fibers are comparatively hydrophilic and less thermally stable as compared to glass fibers. However, the recent developments of natural fiber technologies overcome these disadvantages if used intelligently.

Hybrid and intelligently engineered green composites are going to be the major drivers for sustainable developments. Besides agricultural natural fibers like kenaf, jute, flax, industrial hemp, sisal and henequen; inexpensive biomasses such as wheat straw, rice stalks, corn stovers, grasses, soy stalks and lignin (the byproducts from pulp and paper and lingo-cellulosic ethanol industries) have great potential for use in sustainable biobased composite materials.

This presentation will highlight the current status, opportunities and challenges of bioplastics, natural fiber composites and all green composites for uses in car parts, consumer goods and sustainable packaging.