Final Report: Development of Renewable Microbial Polyesters for Cost Effective and Energy- Efficient Wood-Plastic Composites
Final Report: Development of Renewable Microbial Polyesters for Cost Effective and Energy- Efficient Wood-Plastic Composites In this project, we proposed to produce wood fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites (WFRTCs) using microbial thermoplastic polyesters in place of petroleum-derived plastic. WFRTCs are a rapidly growing product area, averaging a 38% growth rate since 1997. Their production is dependent on substantial quantities of petroleum based thermoplastics, increasing their overall energy costs by over 230% when compared to traditional Engineered Wood Products (EWP). Utilizing bio-based thermoplastics for these materials can reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum. We have demonstrated that biopolymers (polyhydroxyalkanoates, PHA) can be successfully produced from wood pulping waste streams and that viable wood fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite products can be produced from these materials. The results show that microbial polyester (PHB in this study) can be extruded together with wastewater-derived cell mass and wood flour into deck products having performance properties comparable to existing commercial HDPE/WF composite products. This study has thus proven the underlying concept that the microbial polyesters produced from waste effluents can be used to make cost-effective and energy-efficient wood-plastic composites. The cost of purified microbial polyesters is about 5-20 times that of HDPE depending on the cost of crude oil, due to high purification (40%), carbon substrate (40%) and sterilized fermentation (20%) costs more »
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