Michigan State University researchers are finding ways to make tough, lightweight and versatile materials that can be fabricated into items ranging from automotive parts to tennis rackets to housing panels to furniture to bridges - all from plants and agricultural products.
The rapidly diminishing oil supply and increasing oil consumption in North America are driving researchers to look carefully at replacements for petro-chemical products.
This week at the 222nd National Conference of the American Chemical Society (ACS), MSU researchers are presenting four papers outlining methods to turn plants into composite materials, said Lawrence Drzal, director of the Composite Materials and Structures Center.
"There is a growing acceptance that there have to be more environmentally friendly processes and products," Drzal said. "But consumers aren't going to accept products based only on environmental considerations; these products must perform and be cost-effective to be competitive."
Two of MSU's papers deal with composite materials made with reinforcing fibers derived from plants and combined with petroleum-based plastics, and two papers present results that replace all of the petroleum-based plastic with sustainable, plant-based plastic.
Biocomposites are gaining acceptance in everything from automotive manufacturing to bridge building because they can be made stronger and cheaper than with traditional plastic and glass fiber. These "green" composite materials turn fibers from plants such as cotton, jute, kenaf, flax or hemp and plastics from soybean, wastepaper, corn and sugar into lightweight, strong and stiff materials through innovative research.
Bio-composite materials, Drzal said, have several advantages. Since they are renewable-based, bio-composites would reduce depen
Contact: Sue Nichols
Michigan State University