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Scientific researcher says biomaterials could replace auto plastics

A leading Canadian researcher and auto engineer says bio-based compounds will start to replace conventional injecti...


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March 5, 2007 by Canadian Plastics

A leading Canadian researcher and auto engineer says bio-based compounds will start to replace conventional injection molded plastics in the automotive industry over the next few years.

Peter Frise, a University of Windsor professor of automotive engineering who is also the scientific researcher and CEO for Auto 21, delivered a presentation on the future of biofibres and biomaterials in the auto plastics sector on Parliament Hill last week. Auto 21 is a national research initiative focused on the task of improving and enhancing the global competitiveness of the Canadian automotive industry.

The project entitled Renewable Biofibres and Biomaterials for Interior Parts is being led by Dr. Mohini Sain at the University of Toronto, and is focused on developing greener alternatives to traditional injection molded automotive parts.

“This is really a very exciting piece of work,” said Frise in an interview with Canadian Plastics. “It has really exploded in importance over the last few years.”

In order to reduce the dependence on oil, the project explores the use of renewable materials like canola oil and flax fibres.

“The goal would be to make them equivalent to traditional thermoplastic materials, and I think in many cases the properties are equivalent,” he said.

Frise has worked extensively in the plastic industry, and noted that it is not the project’s goal to replace the automotive plastics sector. He said some of these new biomaterials have been shot into conventional injection molds, and have performed quite well.

“It doesn’t replace a plastic part, it changes the feedstock,” said Frise. “The goal would be to have Canadian molders still be successfully operating their businesses and making parts for the auto industry.”

Biofibres and biomaterials are currently being used in some high-end vehicles, and Auto 21 believes the usage of these materials will become more common in the near future.

The research collective has also embarked on other projects that aim to improve the plastic manufacturing processes in the automotive industry. A project led by the Royal Military College of Canada’s Dr. Phil Bates aims to address the challenges that prevent the wider implementation of laser transmission welding (LTW) of thermoplastics.