There is a growing urgency to develop novel biobased products and innovative technologies that can reduce the US dependence on fossil fuel. This PREMISE project seeks to replace existing petroleum-based glass fiber-nylon composites with sustainable, eco-friendly, 'green' composites produced from a combination of engineered natural/bio-fibers and a new, emerging bacterial-based bio-plastic (polyhydroxyalkanoate, PHA) for automotive applications. This 'green' composite material has the attributes of recyclability and 'triggered' biodegradability i.e. (stable during intended life but biodegradable only under composting conditions) to qualify it as a sustainable material. The objective is to strengthen the connection between "DESIGN" and "MANUFACTURING" of this novel 'green' composite so that they can have a positive impact upon industrial applications.
This project will address research issues related to the development of ideas and creation of tools for sustainable product development in the manufacturing enterprise. In order to achieve 'sustainability', all the components such as environment, economics, life cycle analysis, energy and education are included in this project. Product realization for industrial application of biocomposites requires complete Life Cycle Assessment, from production of bio-fibers and bio-plastics, to design and engineering of green biocomposites to their ultimate disposal or recycling. Energy calculations for the entire manufacturing system will be calculated from fiber/plastic production to their processing and manufacturing based upon the existing scientific literature and preliminary experimental data collected from the pilot-scale experiments. A strong collaborative partnership with representative industrial participants, METABOLIX (manufacturer of bioplastic), FLAXCRAFT (natural fiber company) and FORD (automotive OEM) insures relevancy and a high potential for industrial implementation in the future.