25. Nov 2020

Understanding The Importance Of Bioplastics In The Auto Industry

Understanding The Importance Of Bioplastics In The Auto Industry

Global bioplastic production is projected to rise to 2.43 million tonnes by 2024, according to European Bioplastics.

Global bioplastic production is projected to rise to 2.43 million tonnes by 2024, according to European Bioplastics. With its sustainability and vast array of applications, bioplastics are set to take the place of traditional plastics and even metals  in all sectors of manufacturing. Let’s take a look at how important bioplastics are in the auto industry.

Origins Of Bioplastics In Auto Manufacturing
Pioneered in 1910, bioplastics use has had a storied history. The first car bioplastics were made from asbestos fibers and wheat gluten. Their use was experimental, however. Bioplastics were limited to minor uses such as being paint ingredients. That was until the 1920s when the technology matured enough. Glycerol could be derived from soybean oil to serve as shock absorber fluid. Soybean oil was also a critical ingredient in creating substitutes for rubber, which was in high demand at the time. 

The experiments on bioplastics spearheaded by Ford came to a head in August 1941, when he revealed the Soybean Car. This car’s body paneling was made with a bioplastic compound mostly made up of soybean oil. However, America’s entry into World War 2 a few months later halted further development. By the end of the war, the US had secured enough oil that it was more affordable to switch to petroleum-based plastic. 

The Role Of Bioplastics In The Auto Industry Today
The last two decades have seen a sharp rise in bioplastics usage, specifically in the auto industry. This is largely due to their role in sustainability. Technology has also become more advanced as well, letting us make and use bioplastics better than ever before. Polylactic Acid is an example of a bioplastic that was recently found to have a use in auto manufacturing, according to a study published in Industrial Applications of Poly. 

Previously a chief ingredient in biomedicine, it has found a new use in upholstery, carpeting, and assorted plastic parts under the hood. Bio-based polypropylene or Bio-PP serves as competent material for sturdier plastic parts. This includes things such as dashboards, bumpers, and battery covers. These materials see particular use in SUVs, which are often designed around sustainable philosophy. 

Why Choose Bioplastics Over Traditional Materials?
The case for increased adoption of bioplastics goes deeper than simply because it is not dependent on fossil resources. Bioplastics can also provide comparable strength to metals for a fraction of the weight. They are also much more recyclable, with the material used in vehicles able to be reused in other products once the vehicle becomes inoperable. And if these bioplastics are disposed of, they have a much lower carbon footprint than plastics or metals. 

With such major advancements, bioplastics have a bright future in the vehicle manufacturing industry. Several big names such as Ford and Toyota are keen on capitalizing on the benefits that it will bring. This amount of attention and commitment can only lead to more innovations in bioplastic applications.

By: Cindy McCann

Photo: Unsplash

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