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Telles launches thermoformable grades of Mirel PHA bioplastic

Already offering processors bioplastics for injection molding, sheet extrusion, and film extrusion, Telles (Stand 5D/10-6) has expanded the range of conversion technologies covered by its Mirel polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) to thermoforming. Approved for food-contact applications, Daniel Gilliland, director of business development, and Debra Darby, director of marketing communications, told the K Show Daily that PHA’s high-temperature durability gives the new thermoforming material immediate entrée into applications like hot-drink lids, with a working temperature of 212°F and heat distortion of 240-250°F.

October 27, 2010

2 Min Read
Telles launches thermoformable grades of Mirel PHA bioplastic

Semi-crystalline, the PHA provides processing parameters similar to the fossil-fuel based resins it’s working to replace, with Mirel adjusting it for greater melt strength. The material’s properties make it suitable for everything from frozen food storage to boiling water up to 212°F, including microwave reheating. The range of potential applications covered includes cold and hot cups, cup lids, yogurt containers, tubs and trays for meats and vegetables, condiment cups and other single-serve and disposable food packaging. The material is suitable for storage as well as food service.

“There are a ton of people doing thermoforming looking to get away from traditional petroleum-based plastics,” Gilliland said. According to Gilliland, only minor adjustments to the processing equipment are required, including the roll stack and the screw. Telles recommends a lower-compression ratio screw be used when extruding the PHA sheet to lessen shear without impacting throughput. As an added benefit, the material runs at lower temperatures, saving converters money on power.

In addition to non-alcoholic food-contact applications, Mirel says the new grade can see use in electronics packaging, replacing polystyrene. The company has successfully run the material with thicknesses up to 60 mils, with some initial testing from the automotive industry underway. In terms of mechanical properties, the material’s tensile strength comes in at 19 MPa, with 13% tensile elongation at break, and a flexural modulus of 1.48 GPa.

The company is also undertaking a formal study of the anaerobic biodegradation properties of its material. Telles stumbled upon PHA’s unique contribution to the process via a customer. Dutch firm, Pharma Filter was placing food-service ware made from Mirel into an anaerobic biodigester and found that it accelerated the growth of microbes. On a larger scale, such a digester can be used to convert PHA into methane, with the bioresin converting into biogas at a rate of 100% relative to cellulose.

The company has initiated a trial study of anaerobic digestion of PHA at the University of Platteville in Wisconsin. Working with the state’s office of Energy Independence, the project includes a four-stage mini-digester. The company is expecting results from testing in January, with plans to release the findings at the U.S. Composting Council’s annual conference to be held Jan. 24-27, 2011 in Santa Clara, CA.

In terms of upcoming developments, Gilliland said that Telles is working on grades of its material for non-woven and paper-coating applications. At this time out of the traditional plastics converting processes, the only one that Telles cannot sell into is blowmolding, although Gilliland said that the process will be addressed at a future time. —Tony Deligio

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