September 02, 2008 by Lisa Montgomery
The electronics world depends highly on plastic. The extremely versatile material can be molded into wall plates, connectors, housings and other pieces to protect and define keypads, video projectors, TVs and other devices. For these applications, the plastic needs to be strong, durable and rigid—physical attributes that make the manufacture and disposal of these plastics tough on the environment.
DuPont and Fujitsu think they’ve found a solution. Both companies have developed new types of eco-friendly plastics composed partially of by-products found in corn. Yes, corn. The same crop that has sustained society for years with food and fuel may help electronics manufacturers create greener, more environmentally-friendly components. Fujitsu, for example, has developed a computer whose casing is made out of a material that’s a 50-50 blend of corn-based plastic and regular plastic. A casing composed entirely of corn-based plastic is also in the works.
For its part, DuPont has added corn by-products to its Sorona line of bio-based plastics. “[The benefit] of using a bio-based product to the environment is that it consumes 37 percent less energy than standard chemical-based plastics and emits 63 percent less greenhouse gases than nylon when manufactured,” says Stan Rayford, marketing programs manager at DuPont Engineering Polymers. The new bio-plastic line, which is being tested and evaluated by several manufacturing companies, is expected to be used in electrical parts, automotive parts and toys. “We’ve sent out samples to interested companies and there are concepts in the works, but no word on when we might see commercial products,” says Rayford.
If and when corn-bred plastics do make it to market, “They won’t smell any different than the electronics you use today,” assures Paul Moore, senior director of mobile management of Fujitsu Computer Systems. Thank goodness!
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.
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