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Issue 04/2019

  • Text
  • Bioplastics
  • Materials
  • Biobased
  • Products
  • Plastics
  • Biocomposites
  • Biodegradable
  • Carbon
  • Germany
  • Properties
Highlights: Blowmoulding Composites Basics: Home Composting Cover Story: Cove PHA Bottles

Biocomposites Biobased

Biocomposites Biobased surfboards Most modern surfboards are a sandwich-like construction: a polyurethane foam core – known as a blank – coated with a fibre-reinforced composite. The reinforcements are usually glass, but they can also be carbon or plant fibres, like hemp and flax. “There is a huge paradox between the idea we have of surfing and the materials we are using,” explains Pierre Pomiers from the French company Notox. “Used to massive greenwashing, surfers get more and more sceptical when they hear or read about environmental approaches: all the more when the only goal is to serve marketing operations,” says Notox’ website [1]. Pierre: “Most of the boards today are using dangerous material, for the health of the person manufacturing, but also for the environment, because we don’t know how to recycle materials like polyurethane, fibre glass and polyester resin.” In 2006, Pomiers, who used to work in robotics, founded a startup, whose goal was to improve surfboard manufacturing. Now around 90 % of the boards they produce are based on recycled EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam, renewable resources such as flax fibre and cork, and epoxy resins – for the composite – that are partly biobased (see e.g. [2]). They use recycled EPS foam blanks, Pomiers says, because there aren’t any decent biobased alternatives. A simplified life-cycle assessment (LCA) – cradle to grave – that the company uses, finds no real difference between biobased options and recyclable EPS, he claims. This is mainly because many of the biobased versions are not recyclable. Indeed, the development of biobased blanks is something the surf industry seems to have struggled with. A few years ago, there was hype around the idea of growing surfboard blanks from mushrooms, but it never took off. One Californian company that managed to create a mushroombased surfboard switched to recycled EPS foam when they realised mushroom boards were going to be difficult to mass produce. In 2013, two companies – Synbra and Tecniq – announced that they had developed “the world’s first certified 100% biodegradable and 99 % biobased surfboard foam”, but it has yet to come to market. Tecniq’s Managing Director, Rob Falken, says that they “are putting the finishing touches on the technology prior to commercial launch”, which he thinks will be in 2020, but adds that he “cannot publicly speak about the tech... at this time”. According to Pomiers using flax and cork increases the sustainability of surfboard production because the waste off-cuts are non-toxic and can be recycled, for example to produce housing insulation. His company claims that making one of its surfboards produces a kilogramme of waste, 75 % of which can be recycled, while more common manufacturing processes result in around six kilogrammes of waste that is hard, if not impossible, to reuse. Like most surfboards, however, these boards cannot be recycled. Once the composite has set, you cannot extract and process the different materials. But there is a solution on the horizon. According to Jordi Oliva from RConcept, their partlybiobased epoxy resins have around half the CO 2 footprint of petroleum-based resins. And they use a hardener that makes them recyclable. “We can dissolve the composite and split the matrix from the reinforcements,” Oliva explains. “It is a pretty easy process: you put the composite inside an acid solution, with a low PH, around three, and the matrix starts dissolving and once you rinse the reinforcement with water you can reuse it.” Angela Daniela La Rosa, an expert in composite materials at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, believes that such recycling systems could “work very well for sports equipment”. She says that end-of-life has always been the weak point of epoxy-based composites. “They can be ground and reused as powder,” she explains, “but you cannot separate the components.” She adds that the powder does not have a high value – it is often just used as a filler for other products. When La Rosa tested hemp and carbon composites produced using a novel epoxy hardener that can be Photo: Notox 36 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/19] Vol. 14

Biocomposites By: Michael Allen* dissolved in a heated acid solution, she was able to recover what appeared to be good quality, clean fibres. Although she didn’t conduct detailed tests on the properties of the fibres, under a scanning electron microscope they looked similar to the original fibres. The epoxy resin isn’t recoverable, but La Rosa explains that it is possible to extract a usable plastic from the acid solution, once the composite has dissolved. [3] A LCA of a recyclable composite reinforced with 300 grammes of carbon fibre showed that recycling the fibre would recover 523 Megajoules of energy. This saving comes from avoiding the energy costs of making new carbon fibre for the next product. La Rosa says that this is significant because producing such a carbon fibre composite requires 600 Megajoules of energy. “You recover almost all the energy consumed in the production,” she explains. La Rosa hasn’t run a LCA of a recyclable hemp fibre composite. Pomiers doesn’t think, however, that this form of recycling is a viable solution. “The problem is who will collect the products for disassembling them and separating the resin and fibre,” he says. “If a board breaks in Paris, who will send the board back to us? Nobody.” Instead he is working on another solution: 3D-printed boards. For the last few years Pomiers has been developing 3D-printed surfboards from bioplastics, produced from cellulose. These surfboards, which he estimates will be available in two to three years, will not use any reinforcing fibres, instead the mechanical properties of the board will be tuned by their 3D-printed, internal honeycomb-like structure. In theory, as these boards will be 100% thermoplastic, once finished with they could be recycled like other plastic products. They could even be melted down and fed back into a 3D-printer to make another surfboard. [1] [2] N.N.: Sicomin and NOTOX Develop Bio-Resin for Surfboards, https:// [3] La Rosa, et al; (2016), Recycling treatment of carbon fibre/epoxy composites: Materials recovery and characterization and environmental impacts through life cycle assessment. Composites Part B: Engineering. 104. 10.1016/j.compositesb.2016.08.015. * Source: edited by Michael Thielen Michael Allen is a A British freelance journalist covering a wide range of science subjects, with an increasing focus on topics around sustainability, climate change and the bioeconomy. 14 –15 NOVEMBER 2019, MATERNUSHAUS, COLOGNE, GERMANY The Biocomposites Conference Cologne is the world’s leading conference on biocomposites and presents latest developments, trends and market opportunities. Don’t miss the chance to meet key players, extend your professional network and showcase your own innovations, right in the heart of Europe. The conference at a glance: • More than 250 participants and 30 exhibitors expected • Innovative raw materials for biocomposites – Wood, natural fibres and polymers • Market opportunities for biocomposites in consumer goods (such as music instruments, casing and cases, furniture, tables, toys, combs and trays) as well as rigid packaging • Latest development in technology and strategic market positioning • Trends in biocomposite granulates for injection moulding, extrusion and 3D printing • Latest developments in construction and automotive Conference Manager Dominik Vogt Phone: +49(0)2233-48-1449 Organiser: Sponsor Innovation Award: VOTE FOR the Innovation Award “Biocomposite of the Year 2019”! bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/19] Vol. 14 37

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