The UK is on its way to developing car doors, boat hulls and baby capsules manufactured from super-strong, light-weight plastic made from plant products, which harmlessly biodegrades at the end of its life.
The Department of Trade and Industry is providing £278,000 funding towards the £777,000 Combine project to develop plastics durable enough for car doors and boat hulls, which are light-weight, but environmentally friendly, led by UK futuristic bio-plastic developer, NetComposites
Announcing the project, Minister for Science and Innovation, Malcolm Wicks said:
"Normal plastics have a half-life of thousands of years. The plastics being created in this project will be strong and lightweight, but will be made from plants, which means they'll eventually and be composted into harmless plant products.
"Lots of hard work has been done to create greener engines for cars, this takes us the next step by creating environmentally friendly plastics for cars, boats and even baby capsules used to protect our toddlers in medical emergencies.
"That's not even mentioning the competitive advantage this kind of technology could have for the UK economy. Through the DTI-led Technology Programme, we're working with business to develop the products and services we'll need in the future."
Gordon Bishop, Managing Director of NetComposites said: "The Combine project aims to develop high performance plant-derived plastics for structural parts like car doors by using innovative combinations of natural fibres and bio-plastics. It also aims to create products which are biodegradable, for the first time creating structural materials and products from renewable resources."
This project creates the new generation of plastics made from natural fibres, with current products not strong enough to be used in structural components like car body parts. The 21/2 year project will develop a prototype of a boat wheelhouse roof and a mobile baby incubator.
NetComposites is also leading a second consortium, called FuturePlas, to develop the next generation of stronger, light-weight recyclable plastics, using high-strength plastic fibres inside plastic products. This 21/2 year, £715,000 project will manufacture and test an industrial safety helmet and prototype a car front-end, as lighter bodies for cars increase performance, while reducing fuel consumption. This is also being part funded with a Technology Programme grant from the DTI of £316,000.
A spin-off company, Aptiform, has already been created to supply components from these new types of plastic materials.