Finnish centre develops thermoformable bio-based material to replace fossil-based plastics

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The first model product is a designer chair manufactured as a joint effort between VTT, Plastec Finland and KO-HO Industrial design.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd has developed a thermally formable, biodegradable material, which is 100% bio-based.

The research institute announced 6 July that the new material is suitable for furniture applications, making it an attractive alternative to wood and the various biocomposite materials already available in the market.

The product, said VTT, has an edge over some currently available materials, not only because of its biodegradability but also due to its formability and colouring properties.

"All the goals we set were achieved: the material is 100% bio-based, cellulose fibres account for a significant proportion, it looks good and it has excellent performance characteristics", said Lisa Wikström, VTT research team leader, commenting on the new product.

While the material can potentially be a promising alternative for the plastic products, Wikström believes that a “breakthrough” is yet to come.

“A major shift requires cooperation between material and process developers as well as designers," Wikström noted.

As a proof of concept, the first model product with the new material was a designer chair manufactured jointly by VTT, Plastec Finland and KO-HO Industrial design.

The chair was produced using traditional compounding and injection moulding technologies, and is made from wood-based cellulose fibres, renewable and industrially compostable, thermoformable polylactide, and bio-based additives.

Products made with the new materials can either be re-used, composted, or burned to generate energy at the end of their life-cycle.

 

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