- Written by Anna Strom
“We have wanted this (transition) all along, but now there is more pressure from industry (to go 'green'). In Canada, we are mainly taking about the auto industry”, Oksman said on a phone line from Luleå, Sweden, a day ahead of leaving for Canada and the conference. She added that car makers globally were increasingly demanding that the research community deliver intelligence on which of a car's components might be produced from renewable materials. Methods and tools for creating light-weight car batteries made of composite, bio-based materials, were notably high in demand, she said, in view of producing electronic cars.
Proof of the industry's interest, Oksman said, was the fact that manufacturers such as Ford were not only represented at the conference, but also lined up to speak and, moreover, had requested that a special issue of the scientific Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy be devoted to some of the latest advances in the quest to make car parts out of renewable materials.
While, traditionally, composite materials had been made of glass or carbon fibre, often in a mixture with plastic materials refined from fossil oil, the scientific community was increasingly looking to develop composites from plant-based materials, of which wood fibre from biorefinery operations.
“We want to trade those plastic components, notably the resins (or viscous substances) they contain, for ‘green’ polymers to make the biocomposites environmentally friendly”, Oksman explained.
However, she said, aims of the biocomposites' conference were not only to advance the scientific knowledge on how to make “green” plastics, but also to share best practices on processing techniques or to display the latest trends in biocomposites developed using nanotechnology. The latter is the remit of Oksman’s team of researchers in Bio4Energy, which recently demonstrated a breakthrough method for extracting a new material from reject wood fibre from biorefinery operations at Domsjö Fabriker at Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.
“When energy is produced from biomass you generally have high-value waste streams. Take waste products from bioethanol. We can (turn waste streams) from bioethanol into something that has a much higher value” from an economic point of view, said Oksman.
Coincidence or consequency of the biocomposites' conference?
On the last day of the conference Pulp & Paper Canada published this article/press release: Magna investigates wood fibre as reinforcement for plastic auto parts.
And The Working Forest staff were quick to follow up with this: Wood fibre to be used in auto parts.