ARBOCAR project to develop natural materials for cars
Seven Biopolymers/Biomaterials Cluster partners from industry and research are joining forces to develop a new natural material based on lignin, a natural material found predominantly in wood. The objective of the project is to process lignin and natural fibres with enzymatic methods to produce high-quality lignin compounds for use in the car industry. The project is being coordinated by the plastics and biopolymer specialist TECNARO based in Ilsfeld-Auenstein.
The car industry places high demands on plastics: they must be easily malleable at the same time as maintaining long-term thermal and mechanical stability, they must not split nor emit unpleasant odours. In addition, for that feel-good factor, cars need to be attractive to their drivers.
Lignin compounds – wood pulp with the characteristics of plastics
ARBOCAR, the new material being developed by the Biopolymers/Biomaterials cluster, could revolutionise the use of materials in car production, eventually replacing frequently-used plastics. ARBOCAR is a lignin compound produced from lignin derivates and natural fibres such as sisal or hemp. The majority of the properties of such lignin compounds are far better than those of wood or plastics. They have a relatively low density (1.3 to 1.4 g/cm3) and are therefore about 20 per cent lighter than fibreglass materials. They have excellent acoustic characteristics, including excellent attenuation and low natural frequency, high elasticity and they can be used in injection-moulded applications. Ten serial applications made of lignin compounds are currently on the market.
Lignin – wood-based material
Lignin is one of the major constituents of wood (30 per cent) and one of the most abundant natural polymers. Lignin is a by-product of the pulp industry; more than 300,000 tons of lignin are produced every year in Germany. 95 per cent of all lignin is destroyed by burning.
Cluster project plans to improve the characteristics of lignin
Lignin, and lignin compounds, continue to have a number of properties that limit their areas of application. The partners involved in the “ARBOCAR” cluster project are hoping to find ways to employ biotechnological methods to make the material suitable for use in car interior equipment and other areas.
This they hope to achieve mainly through the use of optimised technical enzymes. The project partners are particularly keen on finding a way to produce water-insoluble lignin derivatives from cheap water-soluble sulfonates from which they will then remove the typical odour of lignin with the aid of enzymes. The project partners are: TECNARO (Ilsfeld-Auenstein), ASA Spezialenzyme GmbH (Wolfenbüttel), BAFA Badische Naturfaseraufbereitug GmbH (Malsch), Bosch Formenbau GmbH (Mühlhausen), Fischer Automotive Systems GmbH, (Horb a.N.) and Takata-Petri AG (Aschaffenburg). The Institute of Technical Biochemistry at the University of Stuttgart and Daimler AG (Sindelfingen) are associated partners.
Source: Biopolymers/Biomaterials Cluster press release - 13 Oct. 2008