LONDON — NEC Corp. and Unitika Ltd. have co-developed a bioplastic material reinforced with fiber from the kenaf plant in a bid to mitigate the environmental impact of mobile phones.
As concern has risen over global warming and resource depletion, biomass-based plastics have drawn attention as potential replacements for petroleum-based materials. Kenaf is readily renewable, growing between three and nine times faster than many other plants, and is valued for its carbon-fixing properties. NTT Docomo, Japan’s leading mobile-phone service provider, uses kenaf in the casing of its FOMA N701iECO mobile phone, NEC said.
NEC improved the heat resistance and strength of polylactic acid (PLA) by adding kenaf fiber. It then worked with Unitika to prove out the durability of the new material by applying it to PC components.
The partners have since refined the kenaf-reinforced PLA to allow its application to mobile phones, improving the materia's moisture resistance, impact durability, moldability and heat resistance.
The resulting bioplastic achieves the highest biomass ingredient ratio among all bioplastics currently used in electronic devices, with a ratio of approximately nine parts biomass to one part other, NEC said.