A sugarcane-based polymer from Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies, Plymouth, Mich., is aiming to help reduce CO2 emissions while being bio-renewable.
The ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber compound is made from a polymer produced from sugarcane-based feedstock. Development began in 2012 for the bio-renewable material. A sugarcane-produced ethanol is converted into ethylene which forms a substantial portion of the base polymer.
According to Joe Walker, global director, Advanced Materials Development, the material is typical in its function compared to conventional, hydrocarbon-based polymers and has a similar life cycle.
“We had been working with polymer suppliers for ways to reduce our carbon footprint but the polymer offerings lacked the specific characteristics we needed for our advanced manufacturing processes,” said Walker. “So we initiated a project to research the area, and we were able to develop a material that can be used in our next generation injection molding process.”
Freudenberg-NOK has focused much of their next generation manufacturing technology on a single cavity, net shape injection molding process which has resulted in reduced waste and energy demand and overall improved manufacturing control, yielding improved quality. This new concept is becoming a staple at Freudenberg-NOK. The advent of the new, more eco-friendly EPDM rubber is a natural fit for the machines.
Applications for the rubber include seals for coolants, steam, synthetic hydraulic fluids, brake fluids and aerospace hydraulic fluids (phosphate esters). Walker added that, “the material can be substituted for conventional EPDM applications. Initial indications are that the bio-renewable rubber may have an edge on upper temperature limits.”
The newly developed material is capable of withstanding temperatures up to 150° C, and the material has outstanding compressive stress force retention, with greater than 20% retained compressive forces after 1,000 hours, said Walker.
In addition to these properties, the sugarcane base allows the material to be 45% bio-renewable, which ultimately reduces the manufacturing carbon footprint.
Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies
Brooke Joseph says
It is really interesting that you were able to improve this process so much. Is this the type of thing that could be applicable to other kinds of injection molding? I think that it could be really awesome if the same result could be produced with glass injection molding. Thank you for sharing this accomplishment!