Mind & Matter


Brazilian Bioplastic as Strong as Kevlar

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When I toured Sao Paulo last December, I was struck by the wealth and variety of fresh fruit offered by street vendors throughout the city. Brazilian scientists have recently unveiled a secondary use for the fruit—or rather the materials left behind after its consumption. At the 241st National Meeting and Expo of the American Chemical Society, Sao Paulo State University researchers shared their development of a bioplastic derived from the fibers in leftover pineapple leaves and banana peels. The nano-cellulosic fibers harvested from these and other fruits impart strength and lightness to the new polymer, which project leader Alcides Leão claims is nearly as tough than Kevlar. “The properties of these plastics are incredible,” said Leão, “They are light, but very strong—30 percent lighter and 3-to-4 times stronger [than normal plastics].”

Although the new bioplastic requires the addition of heat and pressure over several cycles, the feedstock generates a large quantity of usable material. According to the research team, one pound of nano-cellulose will deliver 100 pounds of plastic. Leão suggests that the automotive industry will be the first to utilize the new polymer: “We believe that a lot of car parts, including dashboards, bumpers, side panels, will be made of nano-sized fruit fibers in the future.”


Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 1:45 PM Wednesday, December 25, 2013

    Are the materials made out of Brazilian bioplastics going to be biodegradable ?

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.