Magna researching use of PHA for thermoformed auto parts

Canada-headquartered automotive supplier Magna International is partnering with Italian company Bio-on to conduct R&D activities on the use of bioplastics for the automotive industry. Bio-on has developed a new kind of bioplastic created through the use of naturally occurring bacteria that feed off sugar beet by-products. In the process of fermentation, the material is turned into plastic (polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHA). The result is fully biodegradable in water and soil and an environmentally friendly product that does not rely on food as a natural resource and could provide alternatives to conventional plastics for the automotive industry.

Magna, through its Interiors operating unit, is pairing its automotive know-how with Bio-on's chemical expertise to research how production of this natural polyester product can be elevated to an industrial, cost-effective scale. Additionally, the two companies will test and evaluate how Bio-on bioplastics will perform in different standard industry processes such as thermoforming. Magna Interiors will utilise its facility in Liberec, Czech Republic, for joint testing.

"Our material has already demonstrated great potential in diverse industries and we now want to apply it to the automotive sector as well," says Marco Astorri, CEO/Co-founder of Bio-on. "Through this partnership, Bio-on hopes to contribute significantly to meeting the global need for a greener future mobility, with lower environmental impact."

"As a leading global automotive supplier, Magna is leveraging its manufacturing expertise to partner with Bio-on to deliver a potential game-changing innovation to the industry," said Albert Lidauer, President Magna Interiors Global. "We are excited about the possibilities this cooperation offers us to further support our customers in pursuit of environmentally friendly vehicles."

Founded in 2007, Bio-on has developed and protect the world's first bioplastic PHAs that are 100% naturally biodegradable in water and soil. The PHAs are derived from the transformation of beet and cane sugar production residues (in Italy in partnership with Co.Pro.B.), using a natural production process with no organic solvents. The product also biodegrades in river water in just a few weeks, leaving no trace. The PHA bioplastic developed by Bio-on turns a waste product that would otherwise be discarded (a cost therefore becomes a resource) and therefore has no impact on the food chain, unlike other types of "organic" products such as biofuels or other bioplastics that use cereals.

Bio-on also says it has extraordinary features: high thermal and mechanical resistance; can be worked using standard production technologies used for common plastics from oil. The biodegradability of Bio-on’s bio plastic was certified in 2008 by Vinçotte. Bio-on is an intellectual property company and provides technology for the production or use of PHAs based on a license that restricts their use to a particular territory or to a specific business area.


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