As a company that sets great store by sustainability, it is highly fitting that Eastman’s latest offering should be a breakthrough engineering bioplastic based on cellulose sourced exclusively from trees from sustainably managed forests that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Called Trēva, the new material was formally introduced at the Chinaplas Plastics & Rubber Trade Fair currently taking place in Guangzhou, China.
Plastics News Europe spoke with Burt Capel, vice president and general manager of Eastman’s Specialty Plastics business unit and Kevin Duffy, manager of business development in the Advanced Materials – Speciality Plastics organisation to find out more about the new engineering bioplastic.
“It’s a very important development,” said Burt Capel. “Eastman leveraged nearly 100 years of cellulosic expertise in the design and testing of Trēva, and we think it fulfils the needs in the value chain at multiple levels in terms of sustainability, end-use performance, and design and brand flexibility. But what is most exciting is that we are now able to offer a product that allows brands to have 50% bio-content, without sacrificing performance.”
So, if Trēva is only 50% cellulose, what is the rest? According to Kevin Duffy, mainly acetic acid and acetic anhydride. He also stressed that “the material is BPA-free, phthalate-free and that, in future, a higher bio-based content may be possible”.
“We are also pursuing certification under the USDA Bio Preferred Program,” he said. “The process is in progress.”
Trēva is chemically resistant, dimensionally stable, and has excellent flow - flow rates are significantly better than polycarbonate and polycarbonate/ABS blends, and comparable to ABS - and low birefringence, eliminating the unwelcomed rainbow effect some plastics experience with polarised light, improving the user experience with electronic device screens and retail displays. Its dimensional stability allows for less material usage, thinner parts, and longer product life.
“It’s a very functional material,” said Capel. “Plus, there’s the bio story and the exceptional balance of properties.” He continued: “The material is easy to colour, has great touch and feel, and has good clarity.”
Asked whether the material was approved for food contact, Capel said this was not yet the case, but, as this was indeed “highly desirable”, that the company was working very quickly to obtain this approval.
Eastman has currently launched two grades: a general purpose and an improved toughness grade. “We have the ability to formulate,” said Duffy. “We are able to tailor the material to application requirements.”
What applications doe the company have in mind for the new material? Duffy: “Anything that requires you to see through it, such as lenses and covers; ophthalmic applications, electronics housings, cosmetics cases, wearables – the excellent touch and feel make it highly suitable for applications that touch the skin.”
“It’s exciting for us to now be able to connect with different parts of the market with a product that offers a functionality that customers can’t get today for existing applications,” said Duffy.
Trēva will be priced competitively to mid and high tier petrochemical-based engineering thermoplastics.