Bioplastics have been talked about for a long time. But how do you manage to process materials based on renewable raw materials into marketable products using common processes? Which applications would be most promising for this? Which materials should be focused on?
For many years, the Plastics Cluster has relied on cooperation between material suppliers, processors and users of plastic products. After international pilot projects, which were able to gain a lot of experience with the material polylactic acid (PLA), a Lower Austrian network of experts from business and science was formed that exchanges information at regular meetings. The right participants for concrete projects also found each other in these meetings.
Several companies in the biopolymer team worked together to develop a film that is approximately half thermoplastic starch (TPS). The aim was to generate a material that consists of the highest possible proportion of renewable raw materials and is also biodegradable by appropriately blending the TPS with other polymers and compounding it with additives.
In the BioSet project funded by the Federal Government of Lower Austria, research institutions and companies from the fields of chemistry, renewable raw materials and building materials worked together to develop adhesives based on starch and cellulose. For this purpose, enzymes from the class of laccases were used, with the help of which the carbohydrate chains can be cross-linked with lignin sulfonates from cellulose production.
The BioKAVA project (“bioplastics in added value applications”) funded by the Federal Governments of Upper and Lower Austria is working on making bioplastics accessible for processing using standard injection molding machines. For this purpose, available TPS-PLA blends are modified in such a way that different basic recipes for different applications (a weevil trap, a screw cap, a coffee capsule) can be implemented with them.
Approximately 25 people from business and research are currently taking part in the regular meetings of the biopolymer team. This resulted in several product developments: Biodegradable vine clamps for viticulture, coffee containers and spice grinders made from bioplastics. In December 2018, the Agrana company launched a bioplastic compound for film extrusion that consists of 50 percent TPS and a biodegradable polyester. The material was also found to be fully compostable under home compost conditions, leaving no microparticles behind. In the BioSet project, several adhesive formulations based on renewable raw materials were tested for their use in the wood processing industry and as construction adhesive.
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