The search for a solution for non-biodegradable plastic and for the waste generated by the wood industry brought together researchers from the Portuguese Universities of Coimbra (UC) and Aveiro (UA) and the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria (IPL) in the C-TEC project, promoted by Vangest business group.
In this project, a team led by Filipe Antunes from the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC) developed a range of biodegradable composite materials from the combination of various plastics with vegetable fibers (pine sawdust and cellulose fibers extracted from wood) for application in various sectors of activity.
Composite materials are materials that result from the combination of two or more products with incompatible individual properties. This is the case of the products used in this research, developed under a project funded by the NSRF - National Strategic Reference Framework. For example, plastics have hydrophobic properties while wood has hydrophilic characteristics.
So, how to make these two materials compatible, given that they are so different? "That was a big problem that we had to overcome. The key is to modify the properties of both materials and obtain a product that is environmentally friendly and at a competitive market price", reveals Filipe Antunes.
Thus, "in order to reconcile these materials, we have used various strategies such as the introduction of mixed additives capable of bridging the two radically opposite natures, namely modified polymers that intertwine with the composite matrix and react with fibers," he describes.
"We also made modifications on the surface of the plant fibers, coating them with hydrophobic molecules, thus giving a greater affinity of the fibers to the matrix," adds Gabriela Martins, a UC team researcher.
After the properties of each of the materials had been modified, a number of studies and experiments were followed "until the right formulations were achieved for the desired purposes, ensuring all thermal and mechanical properties, i.e. the strength required for various industrial applications", clarifies the researcher of the Chemistry Department of FCTUC.
In the scope of the study, prototypes were produced for application in, for example, the automobile industry, packaging, gardening and shading systems in buildings.
University of Coimbra
Translated from the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru by