Increasing oil-prices, a growing threat of oil-shortages, Kyoto agreements on green house gases, environmental effects and climate changes, are all elements that contribute to the concern for the future of our oil based economy. Not only the search for biofuels but also for bio-based polymers and a more extensive use of the natural resources by upgrading the value of natural fibres and side products will be needed to cope with these problems. Techno-economic studies predict an important growth for the bio-based polymer industry in the coming decennia. This will only be possible if new high end applications are developed. Textiles and especially agrotextiles offer a very attractive end market. Volumes in this market area are high and fast growing. At present, products are mainly based on Polyolefin’s (> 200Ktonnes/annum in Europe). Bio-based polymers in combination with natural fibres and side products can offer a good alternative, if biodegradation can be modelled and adapted according the specific end applications. Intrinsic positive properties of the bio-based polymers such as low flammability and high light fastness can boost technological advantages, leading to major economic and technologic benefits in industrial implementation. The proposed project envisages the research and development of new 100% renewable agrotextiles, via combination of natural fibres, bio-based fibres and bio-based functional additives. This requests: • new and optimised extrusion processes into fibres, yarn, monofilament or tape • processing into knitted, woven or non-woven structures and new finishing process • tailor-made mechanical and functional characteristics • a controlled and predictable biodegradation adapted to the application envisaged • a proven performance for a number of test/demonstration cases. This type of project can take a large share of the agrotextile market (up to 50%) by creation of alternatives for oil-based products and new applications.
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