Electronics manufacturer NEC Corp., Tokyo, has developed a 20% kenaf-fiber-reinforced polylactic acid (pla) polymer. The fiber reinforcement raises the polymer’s deflection temperature under load from 67 to 120?C, and increases bending modulus from 4.5 to 7.6 GPa. NEC says that the fluidity and moisture resistance of the polymer are unaffected, and claims that heat resistance and strength exceed that of glass-filled abs.
Masatoshi Iji, senior manager of NEC’s Environmental Technology Laboratories, allows that the reinforced pla polymer costs more than abs, but yields better overall cost-performance than current pla polymer products. The company is using kenaf fiber supplied by Nature Trust Inc., Tokyo, which grows kenaf in Australia. NEC is using commercial pla sourced from several producers, says Iji.
The largest commercial manufacturer of pla polymer is Cargill Dow, Minnetonka, mn, which makes pla from corn. NEC hopes to employ the kenaf-reinforced pla polymer for electronic devices within the next two years. Computer maker Fujitsu already markets a laptop computer with some parts made with biodegradable plastics, and it will make a product with a pla polymer housing in 2004. Sony also plans to specify the material.