For quite some time, research groups have been looking for ways to reduce the amount of petroleum-based plastics in the supply chain. Recently, automaker Ford took a major step toward achieving that goal by teaming up with Heinz Ketchup. The plan is to use excess tomato fibers from stems, peels, and seeds to create a more sustainable plastic for automotive production. The partnership is already 2-years in the making, but has only been officially announced recently. The research responsible for turning tomato by-products into a durable plastic is still in its early stages, though the public announcement suggests that both parties are optimistic.
This isn’t Ford’s first venture into sustainable material integration; their other applications include the use of coconut-based composite materials, rice hull-filled electrical cowl brackets, recycled cotton carpeting and upholstery, soy foam seat cushions, and more.
And the collaboration between Ford and Heinz isn’t the only example of new bio-materials being explored for industrial applications. Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology recently announced the development of cellulose fibers that are stronger than steel relative to the weight of the material. This material can have potential applications ranging from ultra-strong textiles, to a substitute for the glass component in fiberglass. And because it’s biodegradable and easily renewable, it represents a huge stride in sustainability.
But creating super-strong, sustainable composite materials can only take us so far. If something does manage to crack the composite components, how can the effects be minimized? Researchers from the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology sought to answer this question, and came up with a method for self-healing composite materials. The team designed 3-D vascular networks that contain chemicals that act as a glue when combined. These chemicals are kept separate in the network until a break in the structure occurs, at which point they are released and combine to act as a healing agent. The process is very similar to blood clotting after an injury. After testing the process, the team found that cracks were healed “at nearly 100 percent efficiency.”
While implementation of these advanced materials is years away, composites as a whole have been widespread in numerous industries for quite a while now. To learn more about these materials and their uses in manufacturing, contact the experts at TCA Technologies. We are experienced in creating custom automated assemblies designed to accommodate any material needs.