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04 | 2008

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Electronics Bioplastics

Electronics Bioplastics in Consumer Electronics Of course packaging is the biggest application for biobased and biodegradable plastics today. But other industry sectors are also looking into the new materials. While biodegradability is a useful additional end-of-life option for packaging and agricultural/horticultural applications, for the automotive industry and consumer electronics renewable resources are the more important aspect. W510 mobile phone (Photo: Samsung) “Amid growing concern over environmental problems, bio-based plastics have attracted considerable attention as an environmentally-friendly material which lowers the burden on the environment by using less petrochemicalbased materials to reduce carbon dioxide emissions“. These words could be read in a recent press release by the Japanese company Fujitsu Ltd. Fujitsu, a pioneer using bioplastics Fujitsu is one of the pioneers in the use of bioplastics. As early as 1996 the company introduced the use of bio-based polymers in conveyor trays for LSI (Logic Storage) devices, and since then has applied them in a variety of products, such as POS terminals, ATMs, document scanners, and the PalmSecure palm vein authentication device. In 2002 Fujitsu became the first computer manufacturer to develop corn-based plastic and to adopt the environmentally friendly material for PC parts. In June of that year they introduced the world‘s first notebook PC in which certain parts of the chassis were made from a material that included a corn-based bio-polymer. Constant improvement A joint development of Fujitsu Limited, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. and Toray Industries, Inc. in 2005 resulted in a combined polymer-alloy technology and flame-retardant technology. A new bio-based polymer with high heat-resistance, low flammability, and good mouldability was used in Fujitsu’s FMV-BIBLO NB80K, the world‘s first notebook PC with a full-size chassis made with a bio-based polymer. The biobased content of that material was about 50% (polylactic acid, primarily from cornstarch) resulting in 15% less CO 2 emissions than with conventional petrochemical plastics. The follow-up notebook model, the FMV-BIBLO NB80S had a chassis that consisted of 93% bio-based polymer. 18 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/08] Vol. 3

Electronics FMV-BIBLIO NX95Y/D notebook PC (Photo: Fujitsu) Woodshell concept PC (Photo Fujitsu) Increased impact resistance The next innovation from Fujitsu and Toray in 2006 was the development of a new bio-based polymer that features high impact resistance. The companies further refined the microstructure and improved the compatibility (the ease with which materials mix) of PLA with polymeralloyed polycarbonate, which has a high glass transition temperature. The new bio-based polymer features the same heat resistance and moulding properties as biobased polymer previously developed by the companies, and with a 50% improvement in impact resistance the plastic can now be applied to various mobile devices. In addition, Fujitsu succeeded in making a prototype mobile phone chassis composed entirely of the new biobased polymer. Also in 2006 Fujitsu announced the development of a new polymer with a high bio-content that uses castor oil extracted from the seeds of the castor bean. The polymer features superior flexibility that can withstand repeated bending. Potential applications for this bio-based polymer are small components of notebook PCs and mobile phones, such as connector covers. For this development Fujitsu and Fujitsu Laboratories worked with the French company, Arkema. The jointly developed bioplastic material has as its principal component polyamide-11, which is derived from castor oil. By weakening the interaction of the chain molecule in PA- 11 and relaxing the stereo-regularity of their organization, the resulting material has sufficient flexibility to withstand repeated bending without causing the whitening that often occurs when such materials are strained. Moreover, Fujitsu has succeeded in developing a prototype of certain notebook PC-cover components with an exceptionally high bio-content of 60-80%. Even after adding high-density fillers to increase strength, the polymer maintains good impact-resistance and thus it is hoped that the material could eventually be used in PC chasses and other larger components. The Woodshell concept At the ‘Japan Design 2008 – Innovation’ Expo in Milan, Italy, Fujitsu introduced the latest development, the ‘WoodShell’ concept PC, which has a wood-based housing, along with the FMV-BIBLO NX95Y/D, a notebook on sale in Japan which uses bio-based plastic materials for part of its housing. The WoodShell adopts natural materials (forest-thinned cedar) and bio-based plastics for its housing and parts - the prototype PC that is not merely an environmentally friendly tool but an object of enduring style and utility. The newly developed bio-based plastic accounts for about 30% of the plastic material in the housing of the FMV-BIBLO NX95Y/D, not including the keyboard, onetouch buttons, and some other parts. Samsung Just recently Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. from South Korea announced two environment-friendly mobile handsets, W510 and F268 at World IT Show in Seoul. W510 is Samsung‘s first mobile phone with ‘bio-plastic‘ made from natural material extracted from corns. Samsung has been making an effort to develop more renewable and eco-friendly material compared with common plastic produced from petroleum. Moreover, when producing W510, Samsung did not use any heavy metals, such as Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium, and applied water-soluble coating. Samsung F268 with all the accessories including charger and headset does not contain BFRs(Brominated Flame Retardant) or PVC. However, it seems not to contain any bioplastics. Both mobile phones are only available in Korea and Japan, at least for the time being. “Samsung is striving to continue to be a strong corporate citizen that contributes to environmental sustainability,“ said Geesung Choi, President of Samsung‘s Telecommunication Business. “Now we are trying not only to launch more environmentally-conscious products with more renewable material and less energy consuming, but also to expand proactively set up a phone recycling system“. bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/08] Vol. 3 19

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