Foams, Fibre and Resin BioProducts

The overall aim of this research programme is to create new market opportunities with material developed using bio-derived fibre, resin and foam products. Materials derived from plants can produce high performance products for applications as wide ranging as furniture, boat building, packaging materials, textiles, amenity and leisure products. Such materials offer new ways for New Zealand to derive value from biological resources and reduce our reliance on mineral and petro-chemical based products. By providing sustainable material and manufacturing options, New Zealand companies will gain first mover advantage and earn significant premiums for biological exports.

One area being explored is the use of natural fibres in composites. Scientists working for BPN created a harakeke or native New Zealand flax fibre to replace fibreglass in a surfboard, which is responsible for giving the board its strength and stiffness. Biomaterials like the harakeke fibre used in the surfboard may ultimately be used for a range of products including boat cabinetry or automotive panels, or for kitchen or bathroom flooring and bench tops. BPN have created other examples of products utilising harakeke including lamps and wall tiles.

Biopolymer Network Ltd has also developed a new eco-friendly, cost effective, approach to make foam products using polylactic acid (PLA), a renewable resource derived polymer, yet using existing infrastructures established for polystyrene moulding. Such moulded biofoams are genuine eco-friendly alternatives to expanded polystyrene (EPS, particle or bead) foams and match EPS (and other packaging foams) in many key performance measures. In addition to being sustainably derived, by virtue of the PLA polymer coming from renewable resources, the PLA has a proven much lower carbon footprint than oil derived polymers. Thus the foams made by our innovative process will clearly have greatly reduced environmental impacts in the longer term. Furthermore, the foams are blown using carbon dioxide, another renewable resource, and can be designed as compostable and/or recyclable (recyclable either as a polymer or back to its chemical components for re-making the biopolymer). This creates several end-of-life options - all of which are genuine alternatives to landfill.


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