31 August 2009

Ford: Almost Ten Years of Biomaterials

Focus on soy-based PU foams, natural-fibre reinforced composites and plant based polymers

At the ninth annual SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition, Deborah Mielewski, technical leader of Plastics Research, Research & Innovation Laboratory, Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, Mich.), will open the conference with a lecture on advances in ecological materials.

The address, entitled Can you Be-Leaf It? Development & Implementation of Sustainable Materials for the Automotive Industry, will aim to cast some light upon developments in environmental technologies such as bio and natural-fibre composites and recycled polymers. “Within Ford Motor Company’s research lab, our plastics group has been focused on developing biomaterials for almost a decade – long before it was fashionable to be green,” says Mielewski. “Our group’s efforts have been focused on soy-based polyurethane foams, natural-fibre reinforced composites, and polymer resins made from plant sources,” she adds. “These [sustainable] technologies provide positive environmental impact by utilizing renewable resources, reducing CO2 emissions, by being entirely compostable, and – in some cases – reducing weight, which helps improve fuel economy,” concludes Mielewski.

During Mielewski’s lecture, she aims to discuss the technologies that Ford has developed and the challenges her team have overcome and aims they have struggled to achieve.

Dr. Mielewski, technical leader-Plastics Research at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center, has spent the past 22 years working for Ford in a variety of positions, ranging from automotive paints, to polymer processing, to materials development. She initiated a biomaterials program at Ford Research in 2001, and her team demonstrated soy-based foam on a concept vehicle (Model U) at the January 2003 Detroit International Auto Show. Ford has since launched soy-based foam seating on the 2008MY Mustang sports car and six other models. Mielewski’s group continues to research and develop sustainable materials that can meet stringent automotive requirements, including natural-fibre and soy-flour reinforcement for plastics, and compostable resins made from renewable feedstocks.

Further information
SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition, Troy, MI (USA), September 15 to 16, 2009

Source: Netcomposites, 2009-08-28.

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