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Automotive Even the

Automotive Even the rubber industry has felt the impact of a shortage of raw material and so is seeking alternatives to the supply of natural rubber from the Hevea brasiliensis tree. This tree grows very slowly and needs about 20 years before it yields its harvest. “Natural rubber is gaining in interest because of the price of oil”, says Dirk Prüfer, professor and head of department at the Institute for Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the Wilhelms University in Münster. The amount produced today will hardly be enough to cover demand. As an alternative dandelions are possibly a solution. During World War II the Americans, Soviets and Germans were looking at such alternatives. The idea of using dandelions as a natural source of raw materials was initiated by the Soviets in the early 1930s. When the Japanese occupied South-East Asia the Russians and Americans started to look seriously at producing a natural product from dandelions. On the occupation of the region by the Americans the Germans were using the technology Rubber from dandelions Could Taraxacum koksaghyz be a future source of rubber for the tyre industry? Taraxacum koksaghyz (photos: Christian Schulze Gronover) Dandelion produces in its root, amongst other things, natural rubber, and can be successfully grown in wide areas of Europe which in other respects are not particularly fertile. If this were to be done on a commercial scale then the numerous existing wild species would have to be grown under agricultural conditions. In particular it will be a case of increasing the yield. A German group of six research partners have been working since spring 2011 on the methodical basis of a cultivation programme for Caucasian or Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz). The project is being promoted by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) via the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR). The first step in the research programme is the adaptation of existing biotechnical cultivation methods to dandelion cultivation. Alongside this the researchers want to obtain seeds in kilogram quantities. The Continental Tyre Company (Continental Reifen AG), an industrial partner of the group, is planning tests of the first natural rubber samples. In terms of cultivation the researchers, unlike in other European R&D projects on the same topic, are focussing on two year old plants. They expect to obtain, among other things, a higher potential yield in the second year. The disadvantage of a 2-year cycle is that the cultivation takes longer because only in the second year do the plants produce seed. For this reason the scientists want to use methods such as special analysis techniques to accelerate the process as much as possible. In February of this year, a new project, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will be launched. The project partners are: Continental Reifen Deutschland GmbH, Synthomer, Südzucker AG, Fraunhofer IME & ICB, Aeskulap GmbH, University Stuttgart, Max-Plack- Institute for Plant Breeding, Julius Kühn Institut, LipoFIT Analytic GmbH. The goal is the sustainable development of dandelion as an alternative source to replace natural rubber, latex and inulin. Stay tuned - bioplastics MAGAZINE will keep you updated on this project. MT 22 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/12] Vol. 7

Automotive 80% Bioplastic ‘Ecological Plastic’ covers 80% of new Toyota ‘Sai’ interior Toyota Motor Corporation has successfully used ‘Ecological Plastic’ to cover approximately 80% of the total interior surface area in the partially redesigned Japan-market ‘Sai’ gasoline-electric hybrid sedan. ‘Ecological Plastic’ is Toyota’s collective name of plastics developed by the company for automobiles and that use plant-derived material and are more heat- and shock-resistant, etc., than conventional bio-plastics. Toyota announced that they achieved 80% coverage through the use of a new bio-PET-based Ecological Plastic in the seat trim, floor carpets, and other interior surfaces that require a higher abrasion-resistance than could be achieved with an earlier Ecological Plastic used in other parts of the interior. Bio-PET means that 30% by wt. (the monoethylenegykol component) is derived from renewable resources, here sugar cane. Toyota’s new material dramatically outperforms other general bioplastics in terms of heat-resistance, durability, and shrink-resistance, and performs on par with petroleum-derived plastics, with cost of parts included. Ecological Plastic is considered by TMC to be instrumental to cutting CO 2 emissions and to using less petroleum resources over the lifecycle of a vehicle, from manufacturing through to disposal. This is because the plastic uses plants, which absorb CO 2 from the atmosphere as they grow, as a raw material instead of petroleum-derived plastics. Furthermore, the benefits of an environmental technology like Ecological Plastic are increased when used in mass-produced products such as automobiles. Total Ecological Plastic coverage approx. 80% of interior surface Toyota has been working on applying Ecological Plastic to automobiles since 2000. In May 2003, TMC became the first in the world to use bioplastic made from polylactic acid in a mass-produced vehicle when it introduced the material in the spare-tire cover and floor mats of the Japan-market ‘Raum’ compact car. They achieved another world-first when it used its bio- PET Ecological Plastic in the trunk lining of the Lexus CT 200h released in January 2011. bioplastics MAGAZINE reported about these developments. The Japanese car manufacturer continues its proactive push in the development of new technologies and practical applications to further expand the use of Ecological Plastic in vehicle parts. MT New Ecologial Plastic coverage bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/12] Vol. 7 23

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