Saturday, November 3, 2012

No. 636: Application of biomaterials is spreading (1/2) (November 3, 2012)

Business trend:

Efforts to apply biomaterials to auto parts and home electric appliances are accelerating. Toyota told its suppliers that it would give higher priority to biomaterials than oil-derived materials on the condition that biomaterials to be employed should have the same cost competitive and quality offered by the existing materials. SAI, Toyota’s hybrid car, has seats made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) developed jointly by Toyota and Toyota Tsusho. The PET they developed is as smooth and has the same degree of abrasion resistance as the oil-derived PET. They successfully reduced the cost of the plant-derived PET to the same as the oil-derived PET by importing plant materials from India. Plant-derived materials now account for 80% of the total area of SAI’s interior decorating. Toyota plans to increase the number of models that use plant-derived materials. Please click here to see images of a Toyota car to be build 20 years later that employs lots of biomaterials

The usage of biomaterials started in the mid-1990s, and they were mostly used for containers in the initial stage because they were relatively high in price and did not have enough functions to be used for industrial purposes. In addition, they were not stably procured because they were under the influence of supply and demand of food. The technology to utilize nonfood plants like wood has been developing quite rapidly recently, and the mass production technology reduced the application cost. Today, plant-derived materials higher in performance than oil-derived materials are available.

The plant-derived nylon jointly developed by Toray and Ajinomoto has the same heat resistance and strength as oil-derived nylon. It has two times higher ability to absorb and desorb moisture than oil-derived nylon. Toray plans to apply the plant-derived nylon to stockings and undershirts. Unitika constructed a plant to produce resins made of ricinus produced from a kind of sesame. The Unitika’s plant-derived resin can be produced at the same cost as oil-derived resin. Moreover, it is had to deform and has a higher degree of heat resistance than oil-derived resin. The company plans to sell the plant-derived resins to fuel tubes of cars and connectors of electric appliances. Mitsubishi Chemical wishes to increase the share of biomaterials for its resins to 20%, and Mitsubishi Rayon tries to increase its share to 50%.

Approach for biomaterials
Major applications
Mass producing highly heat resistant polyamide resins
Auto parts
Joint development with Bridgestone, and Toray
Tires, clothes
Mitsubishi Chemical
Mass producing high performance plant-derived resins
Auto parts
Mitsubishi Rayon
Increase the share of biometerials of acrylic resins to 50%
Home elecctric appliances
Joint development of plant-derived materials for lithium-ion battery

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