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Issue 02/2016

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Analysis Breaking down

Analysis Breaking down complex assemblies By: Callum Smith Beta Analytic London, UK Upon signing the Agriculture Act of 2014, US President Barack Obama said that it was an innovation bill. Among the myriad provisions in the bill, which encourages growth in the increasingly large biobased market, was an update to the USDA BioPreferred ® program’s guidelines concerning biobased content testing for complex assemblies. What are complex assemblies? Complex assemblies are products for which the percentage biobased carbon content cannot be determined from a single radiocarbon measurement, such as bicycle saddles, blenders and automobiles. Radiocarbon ( 14 C) is abundant in biomass and absent in petrochemicals so differentiation is readily made in products, but the analytical method is size limiting, so the shape and size of complex assemblies may require precise subsampling and calculations to derive a formulated percentage biobased carbon content. Biobased testing strategies for complex assemblies Conscious of the benefits of promoting the uptake of biobased intermediate ingredients in the market, the USDA has incorporated guidelines addressing biobased content testing for products in the BioPreferred program. Due to size or shape or chemical and physical properties, complex assemblies require special procedures. This will typically involve measuring individual components and mathematically deriving a single result or sub-sampling individual components and combining them in a mass proportion of the whole for a single result. In some difficult cases, such as oil-based paints where oil may be encapsulating calcium carbonate in a way that it cannot be effectively eliminated, the product may best be analysed prior to the addition of the carbonate filler. Darden Hood, President of Beta Analytic, a senior technical author of ASTM-D6866 and advisor to CEN and ISO committees on the use of radiocarbon remarks, “for 100 grams of a complex assembly consisting of three solid components A, B, and C, where 50 grams is A, 20 grams is B and 30 grams is C the strategy is quite straightforward to overcome size limitation. Subsample 5 grams of A, 2 grams of B, 3 grams of C, and combine them for one radiocarbon analysis. In more difficult cases, discussion may be required to obtain the appropriate percentage biobased carbon result while working within the specifications of the standard. All organic carbon species need to be quantitatively recovered as CO 2 from the product since each component may have a unique percentage biobased carbon content. Loss of any proportion of any one them will lead to an inaccurate result; requiring complicated lab procedures for materials such as hand sanitisers and solvent mixtures of highly different volatility. In the case of complex assemblies, close discussion with the laboratory promises to yield accurate and easily communicable data better than ever before. In turn, this should help to promote the production and consumption of biobased products, signalling an exciting new phase across all of the industries involved”. Key components of an Accelerator Mass Spectrometry system, used for counting cosmogenic radionuclides in organic matter Fictive, not existing example: A wristwatch could consist of: 50 grams of bio-based Polyamide 6.10 (the housing), 20 grams of PLA (the glass) and 30 grams of biobased polyurethane (the wristband). The clockwork inside is assumed to be metal, and doesn’t count… (Photo: Marcin Bartkowiak) 34 bioplastics MAGAZINE [02/16] Vol. 11

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