(GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER) Biocomposites — Sustainable & Eco-friendly
Biocomposites — Sustainable & Eco-friendly
Among the various types of composite materials, Biocomposites have emerged as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to traditional composites. Biocomposites are composed of natural fibers, such as wood, hemp, or bamboo as reinforcement material, combined with a biopolymer matrix, such as starch, cellulose, or Polylactic Acid (PLA). These materials offer several advantages over traditional composites, including biodegradability, renewability, and reduced environmental impact. Additionally, the use of natural fibers as reinforcement can result in materials that are lightweight, strong, and stiff, with low carbon footprints. Biocomposites have a wide range of potential applications in various fields, such as packaging, construction, automotive, and aerospace industries.
Biocomposites Vs Traditional Composites
Biocomposites have several advantages over traditional composites which include:
- Biodegradability: Biocomposites are composed of natural fibers and biopolymer matrices that are biodegradable, meaning they can break down naturally in the environment without causing harm.
- Reduced environmental impact: The use of natural fibers as reinforcement in Biocomposites can result in lower carbon footprints and reduced environmental impact compared to traditional composites, which may rely on non-renewable resources and produce harmful emissions during production.
- Renewability: Natural fibers used in Biocomposites are renewable resources that can be replenished over time, unlike traditional composite materials which may rely on non-renewable resources.
- Lightweight and high strength: Biocomposites can offer high strength and stiffness while being lightweight due to the use of natural fibers as reinforcement.
- Customizability: The composition and arrangement of the different materials in Biocomposites can be tailored to meet specific design requirements and performance characteristics.
Challenges for Biocomposites
Biocomposites have gained significant attention in recent years due to their potential for sustainability and ecofriendliness. However, there are several challenges that need to be addressed for the wider adoption of Biocomposites in various applications. These include:
- Limited availability of raw materials: The availability of natural fibers for use in Biocomposites can be limited, which can affect their production and cost.
- High production costs: The production of Biocomposites can be more expensive than traditional materials due to the cost of natural fibers, processing, and manufacturing.
- Limited processing options: Natural fibers used in Biocomposites can be difficult to process due to their high variability in size, shape, and properties, which can affect the performance of the final product.
- Limited disposal options: Biocomposites can be difficult to dispose of properly, as they require specific conditions for decomposition and can release harmful chemicals if incinerated.
- Limited mechanical properties: Biocomposites may have lower mechanical properties than traditional materials, which can limit their use in certain applications.
- Lack of standardization: There are currently no standardized testing methods for Biocomposites, which can make it difficult to compare their properties and performance across different products and industries.
There are many examples of Biocomposites that are currently being developed and used in various industries. Some of the most notable examples include:
- Wood-plastic Composites (WPCs): These are a type of Biocomposite made from a mixture of wood fibers and thermoplastic polymers, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyvinyl chloride. WPCs are commonly used in the construction industry for decking, fencing, and outdoor furniture, as they are durable, lowmaintenance, and resistant to rot and insects.
- Natural Fiber Composites (NFCs): These Biocomposites are made from a variety of natural fibers, such as hemp, flax, kenaf and jute, combined with a thermoset or thermoplastic resin. NFCs are used in a wide range of applications, including automotive interiors, packaging materials, and construction products, due to their low cost, high strength-to-weight ratio, and environmental friendliness.
- Biodegradable polymer composites: These Biocomposites are made from biodegradable polymers, such as Polylactic Acid (PLA), combined with natural fibers, such as bamboo or sisal. They are commonly used in the packaging industry as an alternative to petroleum-based plastics, as they are renewable, compostable and have a lower carbon footprint.
- Biocomposites for biomedical applications: These Biocomposites are made from natural fibers, such as silk, collagen or chitosan, combined with biodegradable polymers, such as PLA or Polyglycolic Acid (PGA).
They are used in a variety of biomedical applications, including tissue engineering, drug delivery and wound healing, due to their biocompatibility, biodegradability and mechanical properties.
Bioplastics and Biocomposites are both environment-friendly materials that have gained increasing attention in recent years. Although they both share common goals of being environment friendly, there are some differences too. Bioplastics are a type of plastic that are made from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, pea starch, or microbiota, instead of traditional petrochemicals. This is in contrast to Biocomposites which are made by combining natural fibers with a biopolymer matrix, resulting in a material that is both strong and lightweight. Depending on their composition and intended use, Bioplastics can be biodegradable or nonbiodegradable. Additionally, even after being biodegradable, Bioplastics may not necessarily be compostable and can still contribute to pollution if not disposed of properly, whereas Biocomposites can be biodegradable and have lower environmental impact due to the use of natural fibers.
Despite the challenges like high production costs, limited processing and disposal options, and limited availability of raw materials, the development and adoption of Biocomposites have the potential to significantly reduce the impact of human activities on the environment. By using renewable materials and reducing waste generation, Biocomposites can contribute to a more sustainable future. The use of Biocomposites in various applications such as construction, automotive, aerospace and packaging is increasing, and research is ongoing to further improve their properties and reduce their costs thus making them contribute to a more sustainable future.
Courtesy: Science Reporter